Should messaging services face the same regulations as carriers?

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A recent leak has given us a good look at the kinds of rules that carriers operating in the European Union will have to deal with. One of the most interesting things about these new rules is that they’ll take into account messaging services such as Skype and WhatsApp. Carriers in Europe have been facing increased competition from these services which don’t face the same regulations that the carriers do, which is why the European Commission will be taking this into account with its new rules. 

The European Commission will take into account increased competition from cable operators and alternative services such as WhatsApp when it overhauls Europe’s telecoms rules next year, a move that will be cheered by the telecoms industry. A draft seen by Reuters of the Commission’s strategy for creating a digital single market says telecom operators compete with “over-the-top” services “without being subject to the same regulatory regime”. “It is necessary to design a fair and future-proof regulatory environment for all services,” the document says. The bloc’s telecom firms such as Orange and Deutsche Telekom have long called for lighter-touch regulation, after years of declining revenues and competition from new entrants, to enable them to invest in network upgrades. Telecom companies point to increased competition from services such as Skype (owned by Microsoft) and online messaging as a reason for easing the regulatory burden. Considering Skype, or any other “voice-over-IP” application, as a substitute for traditional phone services could lead to those companies being subject to the same obligations as traditional operators, such as offering emergency calls.

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