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Under the title “The future of the electronic communications sector and its infrastructure”, the European Commission addressed the general public with an extensive questionnaire to gather opinions on technological and market developments and their impact on the telecommunications sector. The consultation ran from 23 February to 19 May 2023 and also dealt with issues such as EU radio spectrum policy, consumer rights and the question of whether and how content providers should contribute to the costs of telecommunications networks.

Together with the other ministries concerned, the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport has prepared comments by the Federal Government that address all these subjects.

They cover, among others, the following important aspects:

The question of network cost contribution

  • Regulatory measures concerning the relationship between content and application providers on the one hand and network operators on the other hand consti-tute a market intervention that must be justified by a market failure. However, a market failure must be sufficiently proven. Therefore, the question of which form network cost contribution should take does not arise for the Federal Government at present.
  • Regulatory measures such as payment or negotiation obligations or a fund may have negative effects on the Internet ecosystem, free competition, the costs for consumers and media quality. Furthermore, a conflict with the principle of net neutrality must be avoided.

Radio spectrum policy

  • For spectrum awards, the Member States need sufficient leeway to take into account national requirements. Centralising the award and authorisation of spectrum at EU level is therefore viewed critically.
  • The existing cooperation processes of the EU at international level, in particular with the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT), are good and provide added value for the EU and its Member States.

Technological and market developments

  • A comprehensive 6G system, from the network level to the material, component, microchip and module levels, accompanied by strategic research and development, is essential.
  • Real-world laboratories and test beds must be offered at an early stage to bring mobile communications innovations to the market early on.
  • The environmental impact of the information and communications technology sector should be regarded in a holistic way.
  • The deployment of energy-efficient networks such as fibre-optic networks and high-performance mobile networks can make an important contribution to driving forward the green and digital transformation.

Fairness for consumers

  • The existing universal service provisions at EU level are flexible and sufficiently open to new market developments and consumer needs.
  • From the perspective of the Federal Government, an EU-wide fund for affordable broadband access is not necessary and also less suitable for addressing national specificities.

An English courtesy translation of the Federal Government’s comments can be accessed here.