EU Vote on Telecoms Postponed

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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BRUSSELS--European Union parliamentarians unexpectedly delayed voting on the proposal for a single telecoms market, citing a technicality that amendments to the legislation hadn't been translated fully, as some lawmakers expressed doubts about net neutrality.

The proposal was put forward by the bloc's executive arm last year.

The Parliamentary Committee on Industry, Research and Energy had been set to vote Monday evening, determining how the parliament as a whole would vote in the April plenary session. While this timetable can still be met, lawmakers will have time to review amendments again before the committee votes again--possibly later this week or likely next month.

Europe's biggest telecommunications companies have been pushing against provisions in the proposed European law aimed at enforcing net neutrality, a principle that Internet providers shouldn't discriminate against traffic from particular sources. They want to be able to charge users for newer, faster services. In a parallel debate in the U.S., telecom companies are likely to push the Federal Communications Commission to allow them to charge some websites to deliver content at higher quality.

"It's clear the proposal, when it comes to net neutrality, is not sufficient," because it allows telecoms companies to prioritize certain Internet traffic, German green parliamentarian Jan-Philipp Albrecht told The Wall Street Journal after the vote had been postponed. "We need to safeguard the public good of information flow," especially as the telecoms network was originally built with state subsidies throughout much of Europe.

Still, he added, it would be good to get EU rules on net neutrality, roaming and other areas of telecoms completed, he added, saying the committee could still decide before the April plenary.

Reacting to the postponement of the vote on the proposal for a single telecoms market, the EU commissioner for the digital agenda, Neelie Kroes, who proposed the legislation, said she is confident that the postponement won't distract the committee members from their vote on this important proposal.

"It is clear that there is majority support for the package, and that the package is a "win-win" for all the different parties," she said. "This postponement only increases the energy I will put into delivering this package! Moving towards a telecoms single market is crucially important for our economy and for citizen's rights."

Write to Frances Robinson at

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