EU Governments Oppose an Open Wireless Infrastructure

Paris, October 11th, 2011 - As the European Union engages in important discussions on the future of the radio spectrum policy - i.e the future of open wireless communications -, it's becoming clear that national governments are aligned on the position of dominant telecom operators. To protect open wireless communications operated and controlled by citizens, the EU Parliament must resist the pressure and defend its position.

Last Spring, in its vote on the Radio Spectum Policy Programme (RSPP), which aims at harmonising wireless communications policies at the EU level)1, the Parliament affirmed its support to open spectrum policy2.

For instance, it favored the free use by everyone of so-called “white spaces” (bands of frequencies left unused by broadcasters)3 and called on the swift roll-out of small network devices and antennas4 that can be used by citizens and businesses to build shared mesh networks5 and create the next generation of WiFi-like networks. The Parliament stressed that all these promising wireless technologies at the service of citizens can expand mobile broadband coverage in rural areas, thus bridging the digital divide.6

However, as of today, Member States are pushing hard to strike down the Parliament's most innovative open spectrum amendments to the RSPP. A working document7 shows that national governments - who are currently negotiating with the Parliament - want to get rid of the important references to these groundbreaking technologies (see table below).

As the United States moves closer and closer from establishing a comprehensive legal and technical framework for using white spaces8, the EU risks lagging behind because of our governments' conservatism under the pressure of telecom operators lobbies.

"The open spectrum policy adopted by the European Parliament can play a key role in fostering access to a decentralized and citizen-oriented Internet architecture. By trying to block increased competition and innovation in wireless communications, national governments are serving dominant telecoms operators' attempts to control the Internet. We must not tolerate that governments undermine EU competitiveness and prevent underserved populations from participating in online communications. The Parliament must resist the pressure and defend an open wireless Internet", says Félix Tréguer, policy and legal analyst for La Quadrature du Net.

RSPP text versions: EU Parliament vs. EU Council

EU Parliament EU Council
Article 4.2.2
Member States shall foster, in cooperation with the Commission, the collective use of spectrum as well as shared and unlicensed use of spectrum. They shall also foster current and new technologies such as geolocation databases and cognitive radio to develop for example in white spaces following a proper impact assessment. That impact assessment shall be issued within twelve months of the entry into force of this Decision . Member States shall foster, in cooperation with the Commission and where appropriate, the collective use of spectrum as well as shared use of spectrum.
Article 4.3.a
Member States shall intensify R&D on new technologies such as cognitive technologies as their development could represent an added-value in the future in terms of efficiency of spectrum use. Erased
Article 6.4.a
The Commission shall, in cooperation with Member States, assess the feasibility of extending the allocations of unlicensed spectrum for wireless access systems including radio local area networks established by Decision 2005/513/EC1 to the entire 5GHz band. Erased
Article 6.6.a
Member States, in cooperation with the Commission, shall examine the possibility of spreading the availability and use of picocells and femtocells. They shall take full account of the potential of those cellular base stations and of shared and unlicensed use of spectrum to provide the basis for wireless mesh networks, which can play a key role in bridging the digital divide. Erased.
201106_European_Radio_Spectrum_Policy_Program.pdf340.76 KB