The EU is poised to appoint a super-regulatory body that will bring together all 27 national regulators, including Ofcom in the UK, and enforce wide-ranging reforms to the industry.
The establishment of the Body of European Regulators in Electronic Communications (BEREC) would bring national regulators together in an attempt to further integrate the European market and become the main advisory body to the Commission, the
body that proposes legislation.
The creation of a European telecoms regulator was pushed by EU commissioner Viviane Reding, who continues to campaign for lower data roaming rates around Europe.
Malcolm Harbour, West Midlands MEP and vice president of the European Parliament's science and technology unit, was involved in proposals for the package and told Mobile that aside from issues about internet access, the rest of the reforms had
already been agreed on in theory.
Ofcom has welcomed the formation of a new organisation to shape, coordinate and influence European telecoms regulation.
Called the Body of European Regulations in Electronic Communications (BEREC), it is made up of 27 regulators from the European Union member states. It meets for the first time today in Brussels to elect a Chairman and Vice Chairmen, who will
serve a 12 month term. BEREC replaces the European Regulators' Group, with beefed-up powers formalised under European legislation, but remains very clearly a body of independent national regulators.
The formation of BEREC is a major step forward and will improve the consistency and quality of regulation across the EU. BEREC establishes authority in the group of national regulators, working together to the common goal of serving the
interests of consumers and the communications sector as a whole, said Ed Richards, Ofcom's Chief Executive.
BEREC also has an important responsibility to act as an authoritative and independent adviser to the Commission and the European Parliament on regulatory matters.
The first meetings of the Board of Regulators of BEREC and the Management Committee of the Office were held in Brussels on 28 January 2010. The 27 heads of the NRAs laid down the cornerstone for the institutional structure that will deliver the
results that the legislators intended. They also discussed ways to ensure that the both BEREC and the Office will be operational as soon as possible to respond to the needs of the single market.
Although, the increased participation of BEREC in the new Article 7 procedure and the possibility to give opinions on cross-border disputes will need to wait until May 2011, the date for the transposition of the new framework to be completed,
BEREC is able to carry out many tasks without the need to wait so long. BEREC is already able to:
disseminate best practice, assist NRAs, advise the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council, and assist the institutions and the NRAs in their relations with third parties
deliver opinions on draft recommendations and/or guidelines on the form, content and level of detail to be given in notifications, in accordance with Article 7b of Directive 2002/21/EC (Framework Directive)
be consulted on draft recommendations on relevant product and service markets, in accordance with Article 15 of the Framework Directive
deliver opinions on draft decisions on the identification of transnational markets, in accordance with Article 15 of the Framework Directive
be consulted on draft measures relating to effective access to the emergency call number 112
be consulted on draft measures relating to the effective implementation of the 116 numbering range
deliver opinions on draft decisions and recommendations on harmonisation, in accordance with Article 19 of the Framework Directive
deliver opinions aiming to ensure the development of common rules and requirements for providers of cross-border business services
provide assistance to NRAs on issues relating to fraud or the misuse of numbering resources within the Community in particular for cross-border services
monitor and report on the electronic communications sector
issue reports and provide advice and deliver opinions to the European Parliament and the Council, on any matter regarding electronic communications within its competence.
The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications was going to be a superpower: able to dictate policy across the EU and ride roughshod over national regulators. Since then its power has been steadily eroded to the point where it's a
talking shop with a staff of ten, who now find themselves based in the capital of Latvia.
The purpose of BEREC is now to advise the EU Commission as well as national regulators on just about everything relating to telecommunications, when asked. It's hard to imagine the fiercely independent national regulators rushing to Riga for
advice, but it will provide a place for the regulators to meet up.