EC: No time to waste after digital dividend release

The European Parliament has backed a report calling on member states to co-ordinate the use of the so-called digital dividend at EU level. The report drawn up by Italian MEP Patrizia Toia said member states and the Commission should together indentify sub bands that could be used within different application clusters.

The parliament supports the idea of dividing the UHF spectrum into clusters that could be used for services that include mobile broadband and mobile TV in such a way that makes them interoperable across the EU. The European Broadcasting Union has been one of a number of voices that has warned against the use of the same piece of spectrum for different purposes depending on national allocation.

Proposals to establish a Body of European Regulators in Telecommunications (BERT), put forward by Spanish MEP Pilar del Castillo, were also accepted, though the plan was watered down from the original one for an Electronic Communications Market Authority (EECMA). BERT will ensure fair competition by ensuring national regulators use similar tools when faced with similar market situations.

Ross Biggam, DG of the Association for Commercial Television in Europe, gave the vote a cautious welcome: “The European Parliament has recognised the important role of member states when it comes to regulating the telecommunications market in the future. This relates particularly to the allocation and management of spectrum. Given the heterogeneity of European media markets, we believe that these should remain national”.

Cable Europe gave its backing to plans by the parliament to stimulate the development of infrastructure-based competition, saying the plans would also provoke the upgrade of existing networks. “Competing via own networks opens up more possibilities to innovate and develop better broadband telecom services,” the Brussels-based trade association said in a statement.

However, the organisation said it was disappointed by the first reading of a measure mandating that all network owners give third parties access to their ducts. It said the move marked a significant policy shift. “It is unheard of for such intrusive regulation to be applicable to all market players, without making any difference between small and big market players.”

While welcoming plans for the EC to keep a closer watch on “must carry” legislation it cautioned against extending the rules to on demand services.