Tracks the evolution of data protection regulation, how EU regulators are implementing GDPR, and how rules in other countries are changing accordingly.
Tracks the implementation of cybersecurity regulation, with particular focus on recent EU Directives and Regulations.
This product tracks the increasing regulatory attention big tech companies and platforms are receiving from policymakers and their response.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued a preliminary report as part of its inquiry on digital platforms, which started at the end of 2017. The report carries 11 recommendations, and identifies nine areas for further investigation, which will likely be tackled in more detail by the final report to be published by June 2019. Stakeholders have time until February 2019 to provide their input on the comprehensive measures, which give a strong hint at the possible shape of platform regulation in Australia. The ACCC’s initiative is the most thorough and far-reaching regulatory initiative around online platforms so far – even more than the European Commission’s Platform-to-Business proposal, whose scope relates to the interaction between platforms and business users.
Rural mobile coverage continues to be an issue in many areas of the UK. While the latest Connected Nations report from Ofcom shows improvements compared to previous years, it also finds a significant part of the country is lacking sufficient coverage and will not be in a better place anytime soon, unless action is taken. For these reasons, the regulator is launching two complementary initiatives: one is the award of more spectrum to mobile operators, particularly in the 700MHz band, which is well suited to improve network coverage; the second is a plan to support spectrum sharing in the 3.8–4.2GHz band. This should equip operators with more airwaves for coverage, while at the same time making room for innovative approaches in which local operators and new businesses could play a role. Ofcom will seek input from stakeholders on both proposals until 12 March 2019.
The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, made the headlines with his recent interview in which he called regulation of tech companies “inevitable”, and concluded that the free market has failed to deliver. His prediction is likely to be accurate, as policymakers increasingly see cases for intervention with regard to data protection and disinformation. Tech giants now need to move toward a more detailed and coherent stance around regulation; a generic call for pro-business regulation will not suffice, and companies’ need to match their words with action in order for them to retain trust with all stakeholders.
On 4 December 2018, ministers of EU member states gathered in the respective groups of the European Council, to discuss two proposals on a Digital Service Tax and on the e-Privacy regulation. On both issues, EU countries are still clearly divided, and are failing to make significant progress. The Romanian presidency will now try to reach a compromise on these two legislative positions, although it is increasingly likely that neither of them will be finalised before the next European elections of May 2019.
This note will be updated as and when witnesses appear in front of various committees that are addressing the topic of misinformation and the use of personal data.
The Italian government is aiming to facilitate the creation of a wholesale-only network provider, resulting from the spin-off of Telecom Italia’s fixed network and its merger with Open Fiber. The move aims to facilitate investment in ultra-broadband, in a country where network duplication is particularly undesirable due to how the population is distributed. However, the government should be mindful not to kill competition between infrastructure, which would still be viable and desirable in many areas of the country, a model which is also playing out positively in other countries.
On 6 November 2018, representatives of the cable operators gathered in London for the Cable NextGen Europe conference. The picture that emerged is one of an industry with some meaningful ammunition under its belt for the years aheaD, in the form of innovative video platforms such as Vodafone’s new Cloud TV, and of new technology through which Gigabit speeds can be a reality – even in Europe, where ultrafast broadband is lagging behind other regions. However, 5G is still a huge question mark for cablecos; yet fixed–mobile convergence and the demand for backhaul coming from MNOs could create opportunities operators should be ready to seize.
The 2018 Conference of the UK Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA) took place in London on 30 October, at a time when the UK broadband market is undergoing fundamental change. Panels of usually opposing sides were characterised by comparatively little conflict, perhaps reflective of the new conciliatory nature of today’s infrastructure builders. Challenges however do exist on the horizon, especially owing to the ambitious targets set by the government for full-fibre deployment to every home by 2033 and the continuing need to remove barriers to deployment. To this end, there was some criticism to the government’s recent budget statement, particularly on business rates reform; and alternative operators expect improvements once Ofcom overhauls the framework for access to Openreach’s ducts and poles.
US regulator the FCC has reformed the rules of the Citizen Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). The changes make licences much longer and wider in geographical scope; this will be seen favourably by the largest mobile operators in the country, whereas small local players will now struggle in obtaining licences. With this ruling, coupled with recent decisions aiming to streamline small cells deployment, the FCC shows its intention to facilitate the ability to grow at scale in 5G; something that large carriers consider crucial for the success of 5G. While such an approach could hinder innovation coming from smaller operators and new entrants, it shows that the FCC has a clear vision of what 5G should look like in the US, and is taking steps to make it happen quickly.
Today is the first day for former UK Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, as Facebook’s new head of global policy and communications. The move inevitably triggered contrasting reactions, but signals Facebook’s willingness to engage with institutions more constructively in the future. Despite the increasing regulatory pressure over the last few months, end users still get considerable utility from the services provided by the tech industry. Companies can improve their reputation by learning from the lessons 2018 has taught them: regulators are keen to take a hands-on approach to protect consumers, and businesses protect their interests better when they listen and engage. For Facebook, Clegg’s appointment might do just that.
The FT-ETNO 2018 summit gathered policymakers, regulators, industry executives and investors from Europe and beyond to discuss and debate the current regulatory challenges facing the industry. While the narrative has now become familiar among this particular set of stakeholders, the ferocity of the messages delivered was perhaps different. More than once Europe was described as being an uncertain place when it comes to regulation with some recent decisions even referred to as being toxic. Despite recognising the shortcomings, regulators called for pragmatism, saying that a complete overhaul of the regulatory model is off the table. In many ways next year’s event will be the more telling, once a number of recent reforms and a new set of policymakers in Brussels are in place.
On 2 October 2018, Italy’s 5G auction came to a close, after a staggering 14 days of competitive bidding. The amount raised by the auction far exceeded the government’s expectations, reaching €6.5bn across the 700MHz, 3.7GHz, and 26GHz bands. At such a high price, it is likely that Italian MNOs will face challenges in deploying 5G quickly and efficiently. A significant amount of the money they were planning to use for network deployment has already been allocated to licences, at a time when the Italian market is also facing intense competition at the retail level. The government has stated the intention to reinvest the proceedings in ICT; telcos have to hope it follows through, to minimise the impact of a costly investment they had little choice in making. More positively, Italy became the quickest country in Europe to award the 26GHz band, with a pioneering framework for sharing to go with it, which bears potential for innovation.
On 26 September 2018, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee of the US Senate hosted a hearing with representatives of ISPs (AT&T, Spectrum) and tech companies (Amazon, Apple, Google, Twitter). The hearing examined privacy policies of those companies and reviewed the current state of consumer data privacy regulation in the US. Witnesses also provided input on the future of data privacy regulation. The hearing showed there is now an active debate on the topic, which could lead to the passing of a US data protection framework for the first time. Companies accept that regulation is coming, and would rather deal with a consistent set of rules at the federal level, rather than facing a patchwork of state-by-state legislation.
The EC Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourova, has made statements welcoming Airbnb’s effort to comply with EU consumer protection rules, particularly on the front of price transparency and recognition of users’ rights. Jourova also took the chance to criticise Facebook and Twitter, which are yet to implement some changes requested by the EC earlier this year, and could face sanctions if they fail to do so. At a time when policymakers are eager to intervene, tech companies should engage proactively rather than waiting, or, worse, entering into conflict with them.
After a troublesome few years with customer service woes and the slipping from the top spot in terms of network leadership, Vodafone marked a confident return to the stage on Thursday with an impressive 5G demonstration at their ‘Future Ready’ analyst and media event. There was little doubt in the room that Vodafone have a reignited sense of purpose after their well publicised shortcomings.
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