Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence


GLOBAL REGULATORY BRIEFING

Edited by Ben Wilson in London—26 May 2000

CONTENTS

  Internet: EU—Commission publishes draft action plan for eEurope initiative—press release.

  Internet: China—Online news providers will have to get government permits—press.

  Share Options: India—Government relaxes tax treatment of employee stock options—press.

  Telecoms: UK—New study confirms UK business Internet access costs are higher than average—press release.

  Telecoms: New Zealand—Rival to dominant NZ telco calls for local loop unbundling—press.

  E-Commerce: UK—Former government adviser on e-commerce criticises interception snooping plans—press.

  Media: UK—Cross-media ownership rules may be overhauled—press.

  E-Commerce: UK/Lithuania—UK e-signature bill becomes law; Lithuania to discuss draft bill—press.

  Internet: EU—Commission publishes draft action plan for eEurope initiative—press release. The European Commission has published its draft proposals for driving forward the EU's eEurope initiative. The draft focuses on three areas: (1) cheaper and faster Internet access; (2) investing in people and skills and (3) stimulating Internet use. Under (1), the Commission reiterates its desire to see incumbent telecommunications operators provide full, unbundled access to their local loops—thereby boosting the uptake of highspeed Internet services—by the end of 2000 and also calls for Member States to "reduce prices for leased lines by increasing competition and ensuring implementation of the [1999] Commission Recommendation". To drive forward Internet use (point (3)), the Commission reconfirms the need to adopt all outstanding e-commerce-relevant legislation (relating to copyright, the distance marketing of financial services, e-money and jurisdiction) by end-2000 and calls on the private sector and Member States to help it promote alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for e-commerce by the end of this year. The paper also recognises the need for the Commission to "develop a co-ordinated approach for public sector information"—potentially the largest resource of raw material for private sector publishers by end-2000. The Commission notes that content industries are a fast growing area of the European economy, and states that a "lack of clarity and homogeneity in rules on access to and exploitation of public sector information is a prime example" of an obstacle that threatens to prevent Europe's potential in this area from being realised. (EC Press Release, 24/05)

  Internet: China—Online news providers will have to get government permits—press. A report in China's Liberation Daily has quoted the head of the State Council Information Office's Internet Information Management Bureau as saying that regulations on Internet news content (expected to be published by July) could limit websites to sourcing their news from domestic news agencies that have been authorised. Xinhua has also quoted Wang as saying that all Internet content providers in China will have to obtain permits from the official IT or telecom departments. Wang underlined the government's intention of controlling the online flow of news by saying that official websites offered "reliability and proper channels of news", although he conceded that "some non-governmental news sites of good reputation contribute up-to-date comprehensive news". Wang's comments follow government moves to suspend a financial website that it said "spread rumours that damaged the government's image". The website carried an article from a Hong Kong newspaper alleging that a provincial official was involved in stock market irregularities. (Xinhua, 17/05; Reuters, 14/05)

  Share Options: India—Government relaxes tax treatment of employee stock options—press. In a move applauded by the country's software industry, India's Finance Ministry has proposed that stock options will only be taxed for capital gains when employees sell shares. Currently the levy is also imposed when options are granted. The move means that employees will be able to use the proceeds of selling their shares to help cover the tax burden. (The Hindu, 04.05; Economic Times of India, 04/05)

  Telecoms: UK—New study confirms UK business Internet access costs are higher than average—press release. A benchmarking exercise carried out by the independent telecoms consultants Teligen which looked at telecoms tariffs as at February 2000 has found that UK business Internet access costs were worse than average when compared with tariffs in France, Germany, Sweden, California and Ohio. The survey also found that domestic consumers in the UK have some of the lowest prices for off peak Internet access and for fixed line calls. (Hermes, 25/05)

  Telecoms: New Zealand—Rival to dominant NZ telco calls for local loop unbundling—press. In its submission to the government's Ministerial Inquiry into Telecommunications, New Zealand's second largest telco, Clear Communications, a subsidiary of British Telecommunications, has called for the unbundling of the dominant Telecom's local loop. The government is reviewing if the country's regulatory framework for telecoms needs overhauling and, if so, how it should be done. Clear emphasised that local loop unbundling is key to the development of highspeed services in New Zealand. (Newsbytes, 23/05)

  E-Commerce: UK—Former government adviser on e-commerce criticises interception snooping plans—press. Professor Jim Norton, author of the report [email protected] which set out the UK government's e-commerce strategy, is the latest high profile figure to attack government proposals to give law enforcement agencies the ability to monitor electronic communications networks and to access encrypted data. Norton commented that "this is a clear case of the futility of government treating Internet policy as a national issue when what is needed is international agreement. A UK firm which handed over the [decryption] key of a multinational client would be vulnerable to a compensation claim in an overseas court for compromising that client's global security. US businesses are not happy about that liability and will opt to work in countries like Ireland". (Financial Times, 24/05)

  Media: UK—Cross-media ownership rules may be overhauled—press. The UK government is considering abolishing controls on cross media ownership, thereby bringing media companies under normal competition rules. The current system prevents large newspaper proprietors from owning terrestrial television channels. The government is thought to favour a new system, where a company would be able to own a maximum percentage of the "share of voice" made up by newspapers, television and radio stations. The proposals will be included in the Communications White Paper, expected to be published this autumn. (Daily Telegraph, 25/05)

  E-Commerce: UK/Lithuania—UK e-signature bill becomes law; Lithuania to discuss draft bill—press. The UK Electronic Communications Bill, which gives legal validity to electronic signatures and enables government to make existing legislation "e-friendly", has received Royal Assent. Meanwhile, Lithuania's government has approved a draft law that aims to promote the use of electronic signatures. The draft will now go forward to parliament for debate, although industry experts have warned that a lack of technology will impede its implementation. (Hermes, 25/05; BBC Monitoring, 24/05)


 
previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000