For Valentine's Day, the European Parliament went to Strasbourg and approved a resolution on spectrum policy. (The European Parliament usually meets in Brussels but in one of the many compromises necessary to keep its members happy has a spare set of buildings in Strasbourg that it uses for occasional meetings.) Now Valentine's Day seems a tradition for spectrum decisions as some may recall that FCC made its UWB decision on the same date.
My friends at PolicyTracker summarized the resolution as "an endorsement of spectrum liberalisation which embraced technology and service neutrality, flexibility and a secondary market." The European broadcasting community was unhappy with such radical concepts and were finally "bought off" with the insertion of the following statement:
"(European Parliament) recognises spectrum efficiency as a common duty of Member States, national regulators and industry; insists on the necessity of securing the stability and continuity of the media services provided by broadcasters, but emphasises the importance of a level playing field for new entrants and for new technologies; believes that room for innovation must be guaranteed, in the interest of consumers, enterprises and employment generally; calls on the Commission to clarify the specific risks relating to interferences and conditions of applications of new rules in the new Member States and to propose adapted solutions; "[Emphasis added]Now the European Parliament at present doesn't really have that much control over European spectrum policy which is generally made in the 47 nation CEPT, rather than the 27 nation European Union. So this resolution doesn't have any direct impact but is a sign of movement in Europe.
The resolution starts with an endless list of clauses beginning "with having regard to the ...". These are actually a good bibliography of European economic and spectrum policy background as most include links to the cited document.
Some of the liberal statements adopted in the resolution are:
Now to us veterans of the FCC's Spectrum Policy Task Force these do not look like radical thoughts. And they sound like ideas that the UK's Ofcom has advocated for years. But for the rest of Europe this is a major step forward towards liberalization with ideas like spectrum markets and more unlicensed use. It may even have an impact in the ITU although I suspect most national ITU delegates may try to ignore it as much as possible.
8. Rejects a one-sided market model of spectrum management and urges the (European) Commission to reform the system of spectrum management in such a way as to facilitate the coexistence of different types of licensing models, i.e. traditional administration, use without numerical restrictions and new, market-based approaches; stresses that the aim must be to boost economic and technical efficiency as well as the usefulness to society of this valuable resource;9. Emphasises, with regard to spectrum management, the general principles of technological neutrality together with service neutrality in order to promote competition and innovation, within the context of the Lisbon Strategy; points out that spectrum should be managed in a manner which is flexible and transparent ...
10. Emphasises the importance of technical neutrality to the promotion of innovation and interoperability and calls for a more flexible and transparent policy for the consideration of the public interest;
12. Welcomes the Commission's proposal to adopt differentiated spectrum management models including the unlicensed model which provides additional flexibility by allowing for free access within some technical limitations; considers that developing the right mix between the different types of licensing model will be important in achieving EU policy objectives;
14. Considers that the administrative method of allocating spectrum rights could be supplemented by Member States opening up more frequencies to unlicensed, and therefore possibly shared use, and by allowing spectrum trading on condition that this opening up does not harm the continuity and quality of services concerned with public information and safety; takes the view that the phenomenon and the standard conditions of spectrum trading should be clarified;
23. Welcomes the Commission's proposal to introduce a market-based approach to spectrum, and acknowledges that the traditional model will continue to be relevant, in particular where important public interests are at stake;
[Photo from Wikipedia]
[Audio recording of debate]