Law enforcement agencies will be able to cut off the connections of Internet users suspected of illegally downloading films and music, lawmakers and EU ministers agreed in the small hours of this morning (5 November).
A committee made up of EU government representatives, members of the European Parliament and the European Commission ironed out differences over the bill between the three EU bodies, paving the way for the final rubber-stamping of the EU’s telecoms package.
EU lawmakers sent the legislation back to the Council in May amid concerns that the proposed bill would not adequately protect the rights of Internet users. “I am very happy that we have reached an agreement on the telecoms package,” said Asa Torstensson, communication minister for Sweden, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
The telecoms package has been the subject of vehement debate between the Parliament and the Council. The endless discussions focused on Amendment 138, which stresses the need for “prior ruling by the judicial authorities” for those suspected of illegal downloading.
The most recent text from the Parliament made substantial concessions to the Council’s thinking and deleted references to a “prior” ruling at a “judicial authority” (EURACTIV 23/10/09).
The text now reads: “A prior, fair and impartial procedure shall be guaranteed, including the right to be heard of the person or persons concerned, subject to the need for appropriate conditions and procedural arrangements in duly substantiated cases of urgency in conformity with European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The right to an effective and timely judicial review shall be guaranteed.”
“This agreement strengthens the competitiveness among enterprises and enhances the consumer protection in Europe, which will lead to […] better and less expensive broadband services and substantially stronger protection for all Internet users,” Torstensson said.
The proposed reform is supposed to beef up consumers’ contractual rights and create a pan-EU supervisory body to improve how the 27-nation bloc’s telecoms rules are applied so no operator can be shielded from competition.