Legislation on electronic communication to be reformed

Ministry of Transport and Communications
Publication date 11.6.2020 14.20
Press release

The Government is proposing a reform to the Act on Electronic Communications Services. The objectives of the change include the improvement of the consumers' position, the promotion of both investments into communications networks and the availability of communications services as well as ensuring the security of communication networks better. The Government gave the proposal to the Parliament on Thursday, 11 June 2020.

The reform is used to fulfil the demands created by the reformed EU Directive on Audiovisual Media Services ( so-called AVMS Directive) and the European Electronic Communications Code (so-called Telecoms Package Directive). Changing the regulation of certain parts of national electronic communications is being proposed at the same time. The draft proposal would also implement the measures concerning the protection of the critical parts of a communications network, which are included in the measure selection related to the EU's 5G network safety.

"Finland is a pioneer in communications policies. Our networks are the most advanced networks in the world and communications in them is affordable. Electronic communications develop continuously and fast, and the coronavirus crisis has further accelerated the development. Therefore, it is important that the legislation can keep up with the development. The need for functional and safe networks grows and the position of the consumers using them must be protected, for both contents and technology," says Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka.

Consumer safety and services are improved

The proposal is that the maximum duration of fixed-period mobile network subscriptions be shortened from the current 24 months to 12 months. Shortening the contract period would improve the consumers' chances to change their mobile network provider. Additionally, the telecom operator would be obligated to provide the consumer with an easy-to-operate and free-of-charge opportunity to check the end date of the fixed-period subscription.

The Government proposes that the minimum speed of the universal service broadband be raised to 5Mbit/s. At the moment, the telecom operator appointed as the universal service provider must provide every permanent residence with access to a reasonably priced, high-quality connection of at least 2 Mbit/s. The universal service would continue to be a last resort safety net guaranteeing access to the basic services if no market-based solutions are available. The universal service would concern consumers and microenterprises. The change would be made with an amendment to the regulation after the law has been adopted.

According to the draft proposal, 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 operators under the audio and subtitling obligation and it would require 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, would also cover a part of video sharing platforms. The proposal would make the regulation of advertising in traditional television broadcasts more flexible. Additionally, new obligations would 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) could not be more than the mobile phone or local telephone charge. Therefore, a rate exceeding that could not be charged for subscriber numbers. For example, some companies' business numbers and the government administration's numbers are included in these subscriber numbers. The change would enter into force in December 2022.

In future, the telecom operators should 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 could obligate a company of considerable market power to construct a new substitutive network for the area.

Constructing communications networks is promoted

The Act would also provide for new network licence procedures that are applicable to certain frequencies. The possibility to continue the validity of the network licences granted would be added into the Act. In addition, the Act would 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. The proposal would protect the investments already made into the networks.

The reform proposes that minor telecommunications activity could 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.

The Government proposes to facilitate the construction of 5G base stations. No administrative licence granted by an authority would 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.

Safer networks and contents

According to the draft proposal, a telecom operator imparting information could 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 would prevent crime targeting children, for example. Pursuant to the current regulation, it has been practically impossible to remove content if the service provider is unknown or located abroad.

The draft proposal would implement the measures concerning the protection of the critical parts of a communications network, which are included in the measure selection related to the EU's 5G network safety. It would be prohibited to use in a communications network a communications network device that could endanger national security when used. The regulation would also be applied to private networks connected to certain universal communications networks.

A new advisory board for network security would be founded to monitor the security of communications networks. In the advisory board, the telecommunications industry and the central authorities from different administrative branches would be represented. The advisory board would discuss extensively questions related to the security of communications networks and could, if necessary, issue recommendations for the improvement of network security.

There is a proposal to have an application-based emergency warning system coexist alongside the current emergency warning channels. In future, the emergency warnings would 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 would improve the availability of targeted information in emergency situations.

It is also proposed that the radio receivers being installed into new vehicles should receive and play FM and DAB broadcasts.

What next?

The Government's proposal presented to Parliament will be considered in a preliminary debate in a plenary session, the date for which will be announced on Parliament's website (section "Tulevia täysistuntoja" on the Finnish website).

After the preliminary debate, the proposal will be referred to a committee. The committee drafts a report, which is then discussed in a plenary session.

The proposal is scheduled to enter into force on 21 December 2020.

For more information, please contact:

Emil Asp, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 40 509 9757, Twitter: @toutain

Sini Wirén, Director of Unit, tel. +358 40 507 0916, Twitter: @WirenSini

Laura Vilkkonen, Director General, tel. +358 40 5000817, Twitter: @vilkkonen (5G)

Kaisa Laitinen, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 40 772 7643, Twitter: @kaisa_laitinen (frequencies and network licences)

Katariina Vuorela, Ministerial Adviser, tel.+358 40 400 6730, Twitter: @vuorelakata (communications markets)