The European Commission has published a draft position on the status of voice telephony on the Internet, on which it is now seeking comments from interested parties, prior to its adoption. The position will be adopted as a supplement to the autumn 1995 communication on the status of the liberalization of telecommunications markets. The draft position examines Internet voice telephony with a view to determining whether or not such services fall within the scope of Directive 90/388/EEC on competition in telecommunications markets. At this stage in the analysis, the Commission services are of the opinion that voice telephony on the Internet does not, strictly speaking, fall within the definition of voice telephony as indicated in the EU Directive for four main reasons: - Telephony services are not the main reason for using the Internet, and the service is not sold primarily for that purpose; - The service is available to all members of the public on the same basis, but will only function when appropriate compatible software is used; - Users can only connect to other Internet users, and cannot yet communicate with any point on the public network; - The techniques currently used for Internet voice telephony cannot be regarded as providing a real-time service. The draft position notes that these evaluations are of the current position only, and that technological and market developments will have to be kept under review in order to assess the situation in the future. The draft position outlines the consequences on the provisions of the Directive, in particular in relation to licensing, contribution of Internet service providers to universal services, and the regulatory position. If, in the future, Internet voice telephony reaches sufficient market penetration, and the technology involved allows users to connect to any telephone in real time, then service providers would become liable to be treated in the same way as conventional providers of voice telephony services. The Commission is inviting comments on the draft position, which should be submitted before 6 July 1997.
Policy making and guidelines
30 October 1995