A committee on telecommunications and consumers

On 25 March 2020, the Italian Communications Regulatory Authority (Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni – AGCOM) launched certain committees previously announced on 20 March 2020 (see section “Next steps and key takeaways” of our previous alert, here).

The committee on telecoms is named “Permanent Committee on Telecommunications” (PCT) and it covers a number of issues, such as:

  1. Legal and regulatory framework to be adjusted to the COVID-19 impact on the sector, e.g., first measures implementing Section 82 of the “Cure Italy” Decree, further legislative measures; other regulatory aspects);

  2. Data and voice traffic monitoring including on fixed and mobile networks;

  3. Measures and initiatives aimed at preventing bottlenecks and at upgrading network infrastructures. These include: increase in bandwidth capacity to prevent low speed transmissions; exceptional traffic management measures; ongoing initiatives with content application providers; possible agreements to share technical best practices of excess capacity and any other technical solution for networks and services sharing; measures to ensure and enhance uninterrupted access to emergency services; measures to meet network / service requests from “priority” structures and sectors, as identified by the Prime Minister emergency unit or regional crisis units);

  4. Provisioning and assurance relating to on-field activities, e.g., analysis of critical aspects faced by network providers and by technicians in charge supplying and maintaining networks and services; analysis of the impacts on SLA;

  5. Initiatives towards end-users, e.g., management of issues relating to aggressive marketing; measures aimed at simplifying remote top-up of SIM cards; proposals for flexibility measures with regard to payments of access services; possible information and awareness campaigns directed at end-users.

AGCOM specified that all stakeholders in the electronic communications supply chain are invited to participate. Indeed, in addition to typical electronic communications operators, the PCT is open to input and contributions from companies operating in the electronic communication supply chain as well as from trade and consumer associations.

Interested parties may participate and submit their contributions by sending an email to tavoloTLC-emergenzaCOVID@agcom.it.

The criteria to assess those measures required under AGCOM Circular Letter dated 20 March 2020

On 2 April 2020, AGCOM passed its Resolution No. 131/20/CONS which contains the criteria against which AGCOM will assess those measures notified by electronic communications operators pursuant to the “Cure Italy” Decree and AGCOM’s Circular Letter dated 20 March 2020 (additional information available here).

In particular, AGCOM will assess whether the measures proposed by electronic communications service / network providers would:

  1. upgrade the networks capacity and the quality of services, at the same time guaranteeing and enhancing access to emergency services;
  2. provide users with Internet access service that is functional to their participation to the social and economic life through distance learning and smart working, at reasonable prices;
  3. promote the migration of users to access lines based (even just in part) on fiber optic connections, through appropriate pricing proposals.

Based on the above, AGCOM will also assess whether the proposed measures would require any amendments to the existing regulatory framework.

AGCOM asks operators to provide information on data and voice traffic

On 3 April 2020, AGCOM issued a communication to ask telecoms operators to fill-in a questionnaire concerning:

  1. data and voice traffic on fixed and mobile networks;
  2. bottlenecks on network components and related mitigating actions taken by the operator; and
  3. initiatives to support users.

Data and information collected will be shared with the European Commission and BEREC allowing such bodies to monitor networks usage in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak (see the “Joint Statement from the Commission and the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) on coping with the increased demand for network connectivity due to the Covid-19 pandemic”, here).

Operators will then need to send the filled-in questionnaire to the PCT every Thursday at tavoloTLC-emergenzaCOVID@agcom.it.

Next steps and key takeaways

As anticipated, the PCT established by AGCOM is the forum where electronic communications measures will be discussed with the regulator and among operators.

Also, the newly introduced questionnaire will provide AGCOM with the set of information necessary to assess the situation on a weekly basis and to consider the introduction of further measures (if any). Given the exceptional context relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, all stakeholders should monitor the evolution of these discussions between AGCOM and electronic communications operators and, if possible, participate in the PCT forum.

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