Act on Electronic Communications Services enters into force on 1 January 2021
The President of the Republic has approved the amendments to the Act on Electronic Communications Services. The Act will enter into force on 1 January 2021.
The aim of the amendments is, among other things, to improve the position of consumers, to promote investments in communications networks and access to communications services, and to ensure better network security.
The reform will implement the requirements of the EU Directive on Audiovisual Media Services (so-called AVMS Directive) and the European Electronic Communications Code (so-called Telecoms Package Directive). It will also put into place measures included in the common toolbox to secure the EU's 5G networks to protect critical parts of the communications network.
Consumer safety and services improved
The maximum duration of fixed-period mobile network subscriptions will be shortened from the current 24 months to 12 months. Shorter contract periods will make it easier for consumers to switch mobile network provider. Additionally, the telecom operator will be obligated to provide the consumer with a free-of-charge opportunity to check the end date of the fixed-period subscription via SMS or another similar easy-to-use means.
The minimum speed of the universal service broadband will be raised to five megabits per second. The universal service will continue to be a last resort safety net guaranteeing an access to the basic services if no market-based solutions are available. The universal service concerns consumers and microenterprises. The speed will be finally increased by a government decree in 2021.
The audio and subtitling obligations of television operators will be extended to cover part of the provision of on-demand programme services. In addition, an obligation relating to the quality of the subtitling will be imposed on the operators under the audio and subtitling obligation and it will require that the subtitles for both Finnish and Swedish language programmes to be sufficiently clear and understandable for the user.
In future, the regulation of audiovisual services in relation to, for example, child protection, will also cover a part of video sharing platforms. The proposal will make the regulation of advertising in traditional television broadcasts more flexible. Additionally, new obligations will be set for on-demand programme service providers in order to promote European works and to ensure their exposure.
In future, the rate for calling national subscriber numbers (universal access numbers) cannot, after a transition period, exceed the mobile phone or local telephone charge. Therefore, a higher rate cannot be charged for subscriber numbers. For example, some of companies' business numbers and the government administration's numbers are included in these subscriber numbers. The amendment has a three-year transition period and will enter into force on 31 December 2023.
In future, the telecom operators must notify the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency when their old networks, such as copper connections, are removed or replaced six months before the planned action. When necessary, the Agency can obligate a company of considerable market power to construct a new substitutive network for the area.
Changes to network licences, construction of base stations facilitated
The Act will also provide on for new network licence procedures that are applicable to certain frequencies. The possibility to continue the validity of the network licences granted has been included into the Act. In addition, the Act will also prescribe the possibility to renew a network licence without an open application procedure for the same licence holder whose network licence's validity is going to expire.
In future, minor telecommunications activity can be practised in a mobile network operating in a limited area by virtue of a radio licence granted by the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, instead of a network licence granted by the Government. Such a service could be provided in a harbour, industrial area or a limited residential area such as a city district, for example.
Construction of 5G base stations will be facilitated. No administrative licence granted by an authority will be needed for the construction or deployment of a 5G base station in a subregion, unless otherwise required by reasons related to either general safety or the protection of buildings or areas with valuable architecture, history or nature.
Attention to the safety of networks and contents
A telecom operator imparting information can be obligated to remove illegal content in cases where a service provider of the information society, such as a content download service, cannot be contacted. This will prevent crime targeting children, for example. Under previous regulation, it was practically impossible to remove content if the service provider was unknown or located abroad.
The Act implements the measures of the common toolbox to secure the EU's 5G networks that concern the protection of the critical parts of the communications network. It will be prohibited to use in a communications network a communications network device that could endanger national security when used. The regulation will also be applied to private networks connected to certain universal communications networks.
A new advisory board for network security will be set up to monitor the security of communications networks. The advisory board will consist of representatives of the telecommunications industry and the central authorities from different administrative branches. The advisory board will discuss extensively questions related to the security of communications networks and, if necessary, issue recommendations for the improvement of network security.
The current emergency warning channels will be accompanied by an application-based emergency warning system. In future, the emergency warnings will not only be broadcast into television and radio, but also an application provided by the Emergency Response Centre Agency, such as the 112Suomi application. This will improve the availability of targeted information in emergency situations. Radio receivers being installed into new vehicles must receive and play FM and DAB broadcasts.
Laura Vilkkonen, Director General, tel. +358 40 5000 817, Twitter: @vilkkonen