Commission Directive 90/388/EEC on competition in the markets for telecommunications services is seen as the cornerstone of the European Union's framework for liberalizing the European telecommunications market. The Commission has published a Communication on the status and implementation of the Directive with a view to assessing the current state of implementation of the Directive by the Member States, identifying and clarifying central issues and placing the Directive in the context of the package of reforms focused on liberalizing all public voice telephony services by 1998, in accordance with the timetable set by the Council. The extent to which the Directive has been effectively implemented still varies significantly between Member States and some need to take further measures before it can be considered as correctly implemented. The Commission has commenced formal proceedings against two Member States for failing to notify it of all required national implementing legislation and against two others for incorrectly applying the Directive. Five main areas have emerged during the implementation of the Directive as requiring specific attention: - Various issues have arisen over what is considered to be voice telephony and therefore over the degree to which special or exclusive rights on voice services need to be abolished; - Fears have arisen that, since certain categories of voice services have been opened up to competition, service providers may by-pass the voice telephony monopoly; - The effective liberalization of corporate networks and closed user groups has not been ensured, due to bottlenecks in the supply of capacity of the new service providers caused by restrictions on use of alternative infrastructure and disputes as to the extent of allowed membership of closed user groups; - The need for specific schemes for data services for the public should be reviewed; - There is an insufficiently clear separation of operational and regulatory functions. The 1992 review revealed that the effectiveness of the measures liberalizing the sector was questioned by many service providers and users of telecommunications services. In addition, high tariffs for, and lack of availability of, the basic infrastructure over which liberalized services are operated or provided to third parties have delayed the widespread development of high speed corporate networks in Europe, remote accessing of databases by both business and residential users and the deployment of innovative services such as telebanking and distance learning. Regulatory restrictions in many Member States also prevent the use of alternative infrastructure operated by third parties, such as cable TV networks and networks owned by energy companies, railways or motorways to meet their internal communications needs. Many user associations and companies have stressed that European business is less competitive, that innovative services are more slowly deployed and that the creation and development of pan-European networks is being delayed as a result.
Policy making and guidelines
5 March 1996