Draft Act on Electronic Communication Services for comments
On 22 November 2019, the Ministry of Transport and Communications circulated the draft Act on Electronic Communication Services for comments. Among other things, the legislative reform aims to promote the availability of broadband networks and communications services as well as the consumer rights and the accessibility of the services.
The reform implements 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). At the same time, other parts of the national regulatory framework for electronic communications will be reformed.
Stricter terms for contracts on communication services
The draft Act proposes that the maximum duration of fixed-term mobile network subscriptions be shortened from the current 24 months to 12 months. Shorter contract periods would make it easier for consumers to switch mobile network provider. In addition, the proposal would oblige telecom operators to provide consumers with an easy-to-use and free-of-charge opportunity to check the end date of their subscription.
Other new provisions are proposed to be included in the Act to improve the consumer's position and possibilities to switch service provider.
Wider subtitling obligation for television programmes
According to the draft Act, the audio and subtitling obligations of television operators would be extended to cover part of the provision of on-demand programme services. In addition, an obligation relating to the quality of the subtitling would be imposed on the channels of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) and on public interest channels requiring the subtitles for both Finnish and Swedish language programmes to be sufficiently clear and understandable for the user.
EU legislation requires that the accessibility of audiovisual services be gradually improved. The measures proposed now contribute to attaining this objective in Finland.
Minimum speed of the universal service broadband raises
It is proposed in the draft Act that the minimum speed of the universal service broadband be raised to 5Mbit/s.
A telecom operator that has been designated as a universal service provider has to provide every permanent residence and business office with access to a reasonably priced, high-quality connection of at least 2 Mbit/s.
In future, provisions on raising the speed of the universal service would be issued by government decree. The universal service would continue to be a last resort safety net guaranteeing an access to the basic services if no market-based solutions are available.
Construction of high-speed connections accelerated
The availability of high-speed wireless connections would be promoted by laying down provisions on, for example, deadlines for the introduction of radio frequencies and on new network licence procedures.
The draft Act also proposes amendments to the regulation on the significant market power of companies: new obligations would be imposed on companies in order to promote high-speed broadband connections. They would include, for example, harmonised procedures for business-to-business joint investments and provisions on the replacement of old infrastructure.
In future, the rate for calling national subscriber numbers (universal access numbers) could not be more than the mobile phone or local telephone charge. This would allow national subscriber numbers to be part of standard call packages or unlimited subscriptions. Part of government numbers are included in this category.
Some minor amendments arising from the directives are proposed for the Act on Audiovisual Programmes, Vehicles Act, Land Use and Building Act and Act on Emergency Warnings. For example, to implement EU regulation on emergency warnings, a proposal is made for the introduction of an application-based emergency warning solution.
The consultation period on the draft Act on Electronic Communications Services will end on 16 January 2020.
Comments may be submitted by all organisations and private individuals. Opinions are primarily requested online at www.lausuntopalvelu.fi or, alternatively, by e-mail to [email protected].
Following the consultation round, the preparations for the Act will continue by Ministry officials. To support the reform, the Ministry appointed 28 January 2019 a monitoring group for a term lasting until 31 December 2020. The group has met seven times in the past year.
The Ministry will provide information about the progress of the legislative project on its website.
The aims of the regulation on electronic communications are to ensure well-functioning, inexpensive and comprehensive connections and communication services for everyone, a competitive operating environment and well-functioning markets for businesses and to provide favourable conditions for the development of new services.
The EU Telecom Directive includes provisions on the use of communications networks and radio spectrum; significant market power; universal service obligation; electronic communication services and end-user rights; numbering; and the authorities in the electronic communications sector. The AVMS Directive regulates the television broadcasting, on-demand programme services and video sharing platforms.
Sini Wirén, Director of Unit, tel. +358 295 34 2532, Twitter: @WirenSini
Emil Asp, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 34 2498, Twitter: @toutain