Thursday, 20 March 2014

European Union's proposed Telecom Single Market Regulation fails to address Emergency Comms Services

The European Union Parliament over the past several years has been updating and drafting new legislation to create a single market regulatory framework for telecom carrier operators across Europe for both traditional and wireless public and commercial communications services.. The primary focus is to eliminate overlapping tariffs by national governments on everything from long distance rates to mobile phone roaming fees. The legislation has passed through the committee stage and is now set to go before a full parliamentary vote.

Under the the EU's proposed Single Market regulations for telecom - Connected Continent, it fails to address existing or next generation emergency regulatory requirements and just as critical, who would be in control if the operator is headquartered in one country but has a failure in another? A single regulator oversight body is a complex and demanding environment. It will impact how telecom carriers behave and set up emergency communications capabilities, repair and maintenance procedures and network capacity. There are hundreds of issues that have not been addressed. The International Telecommunications Union and its groups such as the Internet Society (ISOC) , Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and others such as the Global Systems Mobile Association (GSMA) appear to have been pushed aside or simply gone along without comment. There is no mention of operational standards, performance requirements, inter-operability guidelines, or regulatory oversight procedures for Emergency Communications services included in the proposed legislation.

The EU's process for drafting and creating new legislation is of significant concern. The committee and elected members ignore long term ramifications without advance analysis or public and civic hearings prior to entering final reviews. While it is commendable to improve competitive enterprise requirements across a large multinational region, if it fails to take into account essential service requirements and delivery needs. It will cost Europeans far more years down the road and in fact, could have tragic consequences.

Bureaucracy is a necessary evil. Procedures, protocol and rules are the underpinnings in daily operations of a large infrastructure. It requires maintenance, supervision and standards to ensure that the system can function across multiple platforms, applications, and technical service needs of thousands of Emergency response services and agencies which are heavily scrutinized and are regulated. The legislation proposes a single regulatory body that would be capable of overruling local or national government equivalents without caveats. There is a veto clause, but it is unclear as to how it would operate or function on elements of public and civic protection safety. The authors of the legislation stress one of the key goals is to eliminate red tape and that in creating a single European regulator, they can build a set of rules that are common sense and minimize obstacles. That single catchall framework is a potential landmine that both traditional copper landline and mobile wireless operators. It will create different interpretations with little or no oversight regarding emergency communication specifications or governance. It is puzzling that such a basic essential service requirement has been overlooked. The committee's emphasize the need for an open and free internet (Net Neutrality) in the legislation, yet do not address how this will dramatically impact essential emergency services if left unspecified with clear and precise documentation and regulatory procedures.

It refers to an open and neutral internet. It is expected that social media and geo-spatial information system (GIS) technology will supplement crisis and disaster response services. It is already used to distribute emergency information to the public and in some cases, get help sent to impacted locations and individuals. No standards regarding privacy, monitoring, response support are offered in the legislation. Nor does it address critical communications inter-operability demands now placed on civic protection organizations that are being addressed in various levels of capability and ability. Emergency communications services costs vary between countries based on existing regulatory requirements. In some regions, no service levels exist, yet where does the EU stand on a single framework if it is to properly create an equal and level playing ground. A mobile operator's capabilities in delivering emergency communications may be reduced or eliminated if its competitors are not required to carry out service to the same requirements and capacity. These issues scratch the surface of the problems that lie ahead should the EU proceed without further review. The failure to investigate and carry out due diligence, potentially exposes the EU to serious liabilities and consequences.

The cart before the horse analogy comes to mind for the older generation. For next gens, it would be a connected disaster before continental support.

1 comment:

  1. Normally, as with all major incidents, the "primacy" for the first response has got the organisation in whose jurisdiction the incident originates. It can be handed over.

    Secondly, all European Members States already have data protections and security laws which apply to telecoms sector.