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. This section focuses on one of the key framework documents, the Authorization Directive.
The EU’s Authorization Directive sets out the regulatory framework for issuing ICT authorizations in member states of the European Union. The Authorization Directive applies to authorizations for all electronic communications networks and services, regardless of whether the networks and services are provided to the public. The Directive does not apply to authorizations for the use of radio frequency, unless the use of the frequency involves the provision of an electronic communications network or service.
The Authorization Directive requires the replacement of individual authorizations with general authorizations. In general, electronic communications networks or services may only be subject to a general authorization requirement. As a result, an ICT service provider may be required to submit a notification that it is providing services, but it may not be required to obtain a decision or be dependent on any other administrative act by the national regulatory authority before commencing operations under the authorization.
The Authorization Directive also dictates certain rights and obligations of authorized service providers. For example, at a minimum, general authorizations must give undertakings the right to provide electronic communications networks and services and to negotiate interconnection with other providers in the EU. The Authorization Directive also specifies when a holder of a general authorization will be subject to universal service obligations, including the right to provide certain universal service functions.
The Authorization Directive sets out conditions that may be attached to general authorizations. It also specifies the types of measures that countries may take in order to verify and enforce compliance with these conditions. Subject to certain conditions, the Authorization Directive permits the imposition of administrative charges on undertakings providing a service or a network.
The requirements related to general authorizations do not apply to use of scarce resources such as radio frequency and numbering resources. The Authorization Directive sets out different requirements for authorization of these scarce resources.
The Authorization Directive has been developed to conform to the more general regulatory requirements of the EU Framework Directive. While the Framework Directive does not establish specific rules for the authorization process, several general provisions are relevant, including:
A requirement that national regulatory authorities exercise their powers (including the power to issue authorizations) impartially and transparently.
- The adoption of a technology-neutral framework for regulation. Thus, technology-specific authorizations are not permitted.
- The adoption of a broad framework for regulation. In light of evolving technologies and convergence, the Framework Directive and all other telecommunications directives apply to a broad range of networks and services, which are generally referred to as “electronic communications networks” and “electronic communications services”. These terms are given wide definitions.
- The requirement that national regulatory authorities promote the development of an internal EU market by ensuring that there is no discrimination in the treatment of undertakings providing electronic communications networks and services.
- The requirement that national regulatory authorities manage the allocation of radio frequency for electronic communications services. The Framework Directive specifies that radio frequency must be allocated and assigned on a basis that is objective, transparent, non-discriminatory, and proportional.