The Telecoms Package was the focus of many MEPs during their European election campaigns. I am therefore happy to invite you to a seminar to follow up on this engagement. The working title is "Seminar on the Telecoms Package - Preparing for 3rd Reading" and will take place on September 7, 14:00-16:00, in Room A1G-2 in the European Parliament (possible second session from 16:00-18:00). Full program will follow soon.
I believe it is in line with constituency expectations to go through the preparation of the 3rd reading in an open and transparent manner. A continued public debate is necessary since the essence of the user rights'-oriented amendments in 1st reading (e.g. amendment 166 to the Universal Servic Directive) is still at the core of the discussion on civil liberties on the Internet, and one 2nd reading amendment (the famous Amendment 138 to the Framework directive) strikes at the heart of national developments in this policy field.
In 3rd reading we are facing the challenge to ensure the Telecoms Package will not only protect users and preserve fundamental freedoms on the Internet, but also that the EU finds the right formula for innovation and growth. Failing these objectives puts a responsibility on the new Parliament to reject the package as a whole.
Prominent European bodies have made recent statements which point straight to the centre of the issue:
La liberté de communication et d'expression, énoncée à l'article 11 de la
Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen de 1789 [...] Cette liberté
implique aujourd'hui, eu égard au développement généralisé d'internet et
à son importance pour la participation à la vie démocratique et à l'expression
des idées et des opinions, la liberté d'accéder à ces services de communication
au public en ligne. 
- Conseil Constitutionel, Communiqué de presse, paragraph 1.3, 10 June 2009
Growing numbers of people rely on the Internet as an essential tool for everyday
activities (communication, information, knowledge, commercial transactions,
leisure), ultimately improving their quality of life and well-being. People
therefore expect Internet services to be accessible and affordable, secure,
reliable and ongoing. Access to these services also concerns the enjoyment
of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the exercise of democratic
- 1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers, paragraph 5, 28 and 29 May 2009
The seminar will deal with 3 questions:
* What Scope? Generally, is the Telecoms Package regulating infrastructure only, or is it also about content? Or more specifically, do the directives cover access to Internet services and applications, or only the transmission of signals? Is the scope of the Telecoms Package clearly defined and specific?
* Which Access? Under one interpretation given, broadband providers may legitimately block access to Internet services and applications, the only proviso is that they include it somewhere in the users' contract. Such blocks could include voice-over-IP or peer-to-peer file-sharing services, but could also include blocking of specific websites and technical protocols. How might such filtering of content affect innovation? Are proposals on graduated response part of a broad shift towards seeking more control of the Net and its users?
* Who's Power? Does "national measures" in Article 1.3 in USD  mean that governments can ask broadband providers to block access to Internet services and applications for a particular purpose, such as copyright enforcement? Do they include "technical measures" as well? Would such technical measures be mandatory?
The following speakers have accepted to participate in the (first) panel:
- Jeffrey Lawrence, Intel Corporation
- Andriani Ferti, Clifford Chance LLP
- Paolo Brini, www.scambioetico.org
- Francisco Mingorance, BSA
- Julia Group Representative, www.juliagruppen.se
Questions for the panellists to discuss and answer:
* On Scope
* Does the Telecoms Package contain provisions outside the scope of the current framework? Does an update of the current framework allow for e.g. the provision to allow ISPs to block or filter? Is there a risk more than access (i.e. also content) is regulated?
* Is there a risk the Telecoms Package will be captured by the old conflict between rightsholders and ISPs/media sector/technology companies?
* What happened to 'mere conduit'?
* On Access
* On what basis could a user be blocked to use Bit Torrent to download software under current framework? Did this change in the Telecoms Package? Would the same argument block email?
* Is the eircom settlement a private, out-of-court agreement to impose automated sanctions on users which could mandate restrictions on the use of Internet technologies?
* Does the eircom settlement fulfil the requirement of 2nd reading amendment 138? What difference does it make that it is an out of court decision?
* Managing traffic for the benefit of all versus squeezing money out if dependent customers: Where is the line to be drawn for responsible traffic management? Will people have to ask permission and potentially pay extra to view their own email? Would this be a restriction on the fundamental right to communicate?
* Are new ISP powers opening up for a Permission Based Economy? Will users have to get permission to carry out activities that they currently do today as a normal right?
* Growth of the creative and Internet economy in Europe: what could result from the suggested policy (potential benefits/ costs)? what is the effectiveness of filtering/blocking users access?
* On Power
* Does the 2nd reading text allow Member State governments to ask internet access providers and/or internet service providers to block and/or filter access to content, services and/or applications? Does the current framework allow the same?
* Will the proposed "national measures" equate to a mandate for industry to impose automated sanctions onto users? If so, would users have means of redress?
* Should an administrative authority have the authority to restrict Internet access for end-users? Should a government Minister?
* Which legal concepts are fitting in the context of "access to information" of the ECHR and Telecoms regulation (e.g. "restrictions", "limitations", "conditions"). What possible meanings could be carried?
* To what extent does the ECHR notion of "access to information" cover information exchange on the Internet? And does interact with what exactly is the scope of the Telecoms Package?
I firmly believe there is time for a proper policy debate, even under the time constraints of the 3rd reading (for your convenience, I attach references to the procedure below) and warmly welcome you to start this debate on September 7, which is the expected date of the Council decision to start the 3rd reading.
Third Reading Guidelines
The Conciliation negotiations for the Telecom Package (Trautmann, Del Castillo and Harbour reports) are likely to start in September. Parliament approves or rejects the negotiated text by simple majority in a single vote (see guidelines ). EP's Legislative Observatory forecasts the plenary vote to 15 December, 2009 .
 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/code/conciliation/default_en.htm http://www.europarl.europa.eu/code/information/guide_en.pdf