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EU lawmakers dilute core parts of telecom overhaul

European Union lawmakers voted on Monday to water down plans from the bloc’s executive to overhaul EU telecom rules, but kept a key provision to split operators into business units and boost competition.

EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding wants more competition in the €300 billion ($469.4 billion) sector so consumers have a wider choice of faster and cheaper services. The bloc’s states and the European Parliament have the final say on the package. Parliament’s industry and internal market committees voted on the package in Strasbourg and made big changes to Reding’s proposals. Cross-party deals last week in the industry committee boiled down over a thousand amendments to Reding’s package into 33 compromises that were adopted by large majorities.

Reding’s plan for a pan-EU electronic communications authority was ditched and instead the industry committee voted in favor of enhancing an existing body of regulators from EU states into a Body of European Regulators in Telecoms, or BERT. The industry committee also scrapped Reding’s plan for the Commission to have a veto over decisions taken by national telecom regulators and instead give BERT the last word. If the Commission disagrees with a national regulator’s proposal for boosting competition, it will have to have BERT’s backing to alter it. Otherwise the proposal stands. BERT’s funding will be subject to further tweaking before full parliament votes on the telecoms package in September. There was also agreement to insert a proviso that investment in new networks does not create monopolies. (Reuters)