This section provides further information on a subject introduced earlier in this module, namely the European regulatory framework for ICT services or ‘electronic communications services’ as they are referred to in the framework documents.
Regulation of the ICT sector in Europe, including authorization, is subject to a set of directives and other legal instruments that together comprise the regulatory framework. These directives were adopted in 2002 and have been effective since July 2003.
The EU has enacted seven directives and related documents in connection with ICT regulation, including: the Framework Directive; the Access Directive; the Authorization Directive; the Universal Services Directive; the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive; the Radio Spectrum Directive; and the Commission Competition Directive. These directives have a broad implication for regulation of the ICT sector, and they are discussed in greater detail in Module 2, Competition and Price Regulation, Module 4, Universal Access, and Module 5, Radio Spectrum Management. Links to these Modules are set out below. In this module, we will focus on the Authorization Directive and the Framework Directive, which are most relevant to authorization.
The electronic communications directives were developed in response to a dynamic and increasingly unpredictable market in which a growing number of competitors are participating. A key objective of the directives is to create a flexible regulatory framework that is capable of responding to new technologies, convergence, and an increasingly competitive market.
The fast pace of technological change and service innovation in the ICT sector has prompted the European Commission to undertake a review of the current regulatory framework. This review was deemed necessary in order to ensure that the regulatory framework continues to serve the best interests of consumers and the ICT industry. In November 2007, the Commission issued a number of proposals for reform. These proposals focus on four main areas: cultivating more competition, fostering better regulation, strengthening the internal market, and protecting consumers better.
The review of the current regulatory framework encompasses consideration of how to ensure that the ICT sector makes better use of radio spectrum. This dimension of the review includes an exploration of how best to use the spectrum that will become available as a result of the introduction of digital television and the resultant ‘switch-off’ of analogue services (the digital dividend). The Commission’s proposals in this regard advocate flexible and market-oriented management of the radio spectrum so that service providers have the freedom to use the spectrum to offer the services that have the highest value attached to them. The Commission’s support for a flexible and market-oriented approach to radio spectrum management is consistent with its commitment to neutrality in authorizations since this approach does not dictate the services for which radio frequency authorizations must be used.