Turncoat EU Parliament Gives Up on Defending Free Wireless Communications

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Update: February 15th, 2012 – The European Parliament as a whole formally adopted the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme

Paris, November 9th, 2011 — In discussions on the future of wireless communications policies, the EU Parliament is giving in to Member States by accepting a watered-down version1See: http://www.laquadrature.net/files/RSPP_after_Coreper_28.10_for_the_EP.pdf of the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme. Last Spring, the Parliament had made very constructive proposals in favour of open spectrum policies, calling2See: http://www.laquadrature.net/en/eu-parliament-calls-for-free-wireless-communications for citizen-controlled wireless communications. Sadly, the first major effort to harmonise spectrum policy in Europe is being held back by EU governments’ conservatism and the Parliament’s surrender.

On Thursday3See draft agenda of ITRE committee: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+COMPARL+ITRE-OJ-20111110-1+02+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN, the EU Parliament’s Industry committee (ITRE) is expected to finalise debates on the first European Radio Spectrum Policy Programme4See: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/file.jsp?id=5872922, by accepting national governments’ bad amendments5See the compromise version of the RSPP: http://www.laquadrature.net/files/RSPP_after_Coreper_28.10_for_the_EP.pdf to the text. Member States are refusing any binding EU-wide policy to free up radio waves and encourage citizen uses of the spectrum.6See our analysis of the compromise amendments on open spectrum: http://www.laquadrature.net/wiki/RSPP_Compromise
Member States deleted “unlicensed” and introduced the wording “where appropriate” in a very important amendment, thereby rendering it non-binding and ineffective.
By doing so, they are holding back real competition, intense innovation, and enhanced wireless access to the Internet. The obvious beneficiaries of such government control over this crucial public resource are dominant telecom operators, who will be able to consolidate their control on airwaves.

The Parliament entered negotiations with a strong call in favour of opening up spectrum to innovators and entrepreneurs. In the Spring, MEPs had adopted7See: https://www.laquadrature.net/en/eu-parliament-adopts-open-wireless-communications-policy important amendments calling the Commission and Member States to authorise the creation of “super Wi-Fi” networks by giving unlicensed access to spectrum8See “The Spectrum of our Freedoms”: http://www.laquadrature.net/en/the-spectrum-of-our-freedoms, in particular in so-called “white spaces” (bands of frequencies left unused by broadcasters9See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_spaces_%28radio%29
For recent experiments on the potential of these frequencies, see: http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2011/09/27/cambridge-white-space-trial-runs-hd-iplayer/
). This would have allowed for more affordable and open wireless Internet access, which is currently undermined by the harmful restrictions imposed by telecom operators10See the “Respect My Net” platform for Net neutrality violation reporting: http://respectmynet.eu/list/.

“As the European Council proposed a bad compromise, the Parliament didn’t fight and gave in11See the letter of the ITRE chair, Herbert Reul, sent to the Council: http://www.laquadrature.net/files/ITRE_Chair_letter_to_COREPER.pdf, renouncing to defend citizens’ interest. Just as the United States moves closer to establishing a comprehensive framework for open wireless communications12http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/07/white_space_database/, the EU will be lagging behind because of the Parliament’s lack of political courage and our governments’ conservatism. The EU is missing an opportunity to foster the development of a decentralised wireless Internet, boost innovation and help bridge the digital divide, and instead plays into the hands of dominant telecom operators who attempt to control wireless communications.”, said Félix Tréguer, policy and legal analyst for La Quadrature du Net.

References   [ + ]

1. See: http://www.laquadrature.net/files/RSPP_after_Coreper_28.10_for_the_EP.pdf
2. See: http://www.laquadrature.net/en/eu-parliament-calls-for-free-wireless-communications
3. See draft agenda of ITRE committee: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+COMPARL+ITRE-OJ-20111110-1+02+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN
4. See: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/file.jsp?id=5872922
5. See the compromise version of the RSPP: http://www.laquadrature.net/files/RSPP_after_Coreper_28.10_for_the_EP.pdf
6. See our analysis of the compromise amendments on open spectrum: http://www.laquadrature.net/wiki/RSPP_Compromise
Member States deleted “unlicensed” and introduced the wording “where appropriate” in a very important amendment, thereby rendering it non-binding and ineffective.
7. See: https://www.laquadrature.net/en/eu-parliament-adopts-open-wireless-communications-policy
8. See “The Spectrum of our Freedoms”: http://www.laquadrature.net/en/the-spectrum-of-our-freedoms
9. See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_spaces_%28radio%29
For recent experiments on the potential of these frequencies, see: http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2011/09/27/cambridge-white-space-trial-runs-hd-iplayer/
10. See the “Respect My Net” platform for Net neutrality violation reporting: http://respectmynet.eu/list/
11. See the letter of the ITRE chair, Herbert Reul, sent to the Council: http://www.laquadrature.net/files/ITRE_Chair_letter_to_COREPER.pdf
12. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/07/white_space_database/

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