Will the UK continue to benefit from the EU-funded pledges to equip all ‘public places’ throughout the EU with free wireless internet access by 2020, and uninterrupted 5G access on all road and rail networks by 2025, and if not, will the government commit to match and fund the delivery of these objectives itself?
These questions concern the Connectivity Package, a group of EU policies regulating the telecoms industries.
The Connectivity Package is an EU project including the following pieces of legislation:
- Communication and Staff Working Document – Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market – towards a European Gigabit Society
- European Electronic Communication Code
- Regulation on the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC)
- Regulation on the promotion of Internet connectivity in local communities and public spaces (WIFI4EU)
- Action Plan Communication and Staff Working Document: 5G for Europe
The Connectivity Package is part of the Digital Single Market strategy.
Progress and developments:
In December 2016 the European Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons asked Government for the following clarifications on the telecoms package:
This legislative package represents a substantive overhaul of telecoms law, which will impact the UK while a Member of the EU and after its withdrawal. We ask the Minister to provide:
- more detail on the expected next steps—when he considers the legislative proposals are likely to be passed up to Coreper and trilogue discussions (with the European Parliament and Commission) entered into, and whether the intended target of adoption of both proposals by the end 2017 is realistic (with an eighteen month implementation period thereafter); and
- an updated assessment of the extent to which the UK is likely to want to mirror in its post Brexit domestic legislation the substance of the legislative proposals where there is a deviation from current UK law; and if so the extent to which this would require further agreement with the EU (for example because it involves reciprocal cross-border rights and obligations); and if not, the extent to which barriers to trade and investment may arise of diverging legislation and how different stakeholders (consumers, telecoms operators, ‘over the top’ communication service providers etc) may be affected.
The response the Committee received from the government has caused them to state
Pending the further information requested, we hold both proposals under scrutiny and draw our conclusions to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in view of their recent inquiries on the Digital Economy and UK Connectivity, and to the House in view of the Digital Economy Bill.
The Committee also addressed several non-legislative measures of the telecoms package.
On 25 April, as with so many DSM initiatives, the Committee granted a scrutiny waiver to the Minister of State for Digital in light of the impending dissolution of Parliament for the General Election. We await further progress.
On 22 March the Committee briefly dealt with the very wonky issue of radio spectrum bands, also a part of the DSM package. Likewise, in November 2016 the Committee addressed the promotion of wifi in local communities.
Also, in February 2017 the EU Internal Market Sub-committee of the House of Lords held a hearing on the Connectivity Package.
In November 2017 the Commitee examined the Proposal for a Directive on establishing the European Electronic Communications Code as well as the Proposal for a Regulation establishing the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications. This scrutiny included several questions about telecoms and Brexit guaranteed to make the receipients squirm in their chairs.