Commission's first report on implementation of universal service in telecoms
The European Commission has published its first monitoring report on universal service in telecommunications in the EU. The report comes in the wake of liberalization of the sector in the EU as of the beginning of January 1998. The universal service provisions in the EU's telecoms legislation mean that every citizen, no matter what living standard or region, should be guaranteed access to certain minimum standards of affordable telecommunications services. These include voice telephony, fax, and electronic data transmission, allowing access to the Information Society. According to the report, across Europe as a whole, there is ongoing improvement in service levels, price and quality of service, as well as a gradual strengthening of consumer rights. Examples of these improvements include gradual increases in telephone penetration and service levels; a narrowing in the gap between Member States; reduced prices in real terms for most users; and the introduction of more consumer protection measures. On the basis of the analysis in the report, the Commission sees no need to redefine the definition of universal service. However, as telecoms liberalization continues to impact on the marketplace, the Commission will monitor its effects, with the aim of ensuring that the benefits of greater competition extend to all citizens.