BEREC: Freedom of expression must be guaranteed in regulation of electronic communications markets

Electronic communication markets have a huge role to play for enjoyment the right to freedom of expression and information and other human rights. The way these markets are structured and regulated has a substantial impact on the way people can communicate, share and access information. For example, many content related issues – how content is accessed, or which content is prioritised, and how personal information about individuals is generated, collected and sold – is strongly influenced by how relevant market actors are regulated and how much competition is available in the market.

Since electronic communications providers at different layers act as gateway between individuals and their enjoyment of human rights, regulatory decisions and policies must be more informed by a human-rights perspective.

Within the European Union, a major role in the electronic communication sector is played by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), composed of representatives of the telecom regulators of the EU member States. BEREC’s main task is to contribute to the development and better functioning of the EU internal market for electronic communications networks and services by supporting a consistent application of the EU regulatory framework, in order to bring greater benefits to consumers and businesses alike.

ARTICLE 19 has provided submissions and feedback to BEREC’s work-plans, draft recommendations and other policy documents on variety of topics, in particular mobile infrastructure sharing, regulatory aspects of the Internet of Things, the impact of data economy in the electronic communication sector. This is because we believe that all of these have significant free expression implications.

The most recently, in September 2019, ARTICLE 19, together with, provided a submission to BEREC concerning further research and actions to be implemented in order to better understand the interplay between 5G deployment and regulation. Among others, in the submission we suggest BEREC: to work jointly with the European Data Protection Board on technical standardisation, in order to better address privacy for enhanced mobile broadband; to play a coordination role among EU and national policies affecting security and privacy, in order to provide manufacturers and operators with more certainty, and the freedom to introduce developments which guarantee stronger privacy to end-users; to inquire end-user equipment manufacturers, operating system and firmware vendors, and operators as to the implementation and configuration of network slices on terminal equipment and publish a report about its findings, in order to avoid 5G to be used to circumvent net neutrality rules. All in all, the submission argues that the regulation should allow society to enjoy all benefits 5G can bring, while minimising or eliminating any trade-off or negative impact on human rights.

Read our submission on 5G and regulation here


Read our previous submissions:

Consultation for indicators on Internet of Things (January 2019)

Consultation on BEREC’s draft work programme (November 2018)

Consultation on the data economy (November 2018)

Consultation on Common Position on Mobile Infrastructure Sharing