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European Commission Launches Exploratory Consultation on the Future of the Electronic Communications Sector and Its Infrastructure

On 23 February 2023, the European Commission (Commission) launched an exploratory consultation on the future of the Electronic Communications sector and its infrastructure. Electronic communications services are provided, in exchange for payment, through electronic communications networks. Such services include internet access services, interpersonal communications services, and services used for sending signals (e.g., transmission services). The Commission’s objective is to gather feedback on how the increased demand for connectivity and technological advances could affect the European Union’s future developments and needs. In addition to the consultation, the Commission announced two other initiatives, the draft Gigabit Recommendation and proposal for a Gigabit Infrastructure Act, which also aim to address the availability and accessibility of networks for EU citizens and businesses. 

Through the consultation, the Commission aims to identify the types of infrastructure needed for the European Union to stay ahead of technological progress. Additionally, stakeholders will be able to submit their assessment on how best to secure investments to support infrastructure developments. 

In that vein, the consultation serves as an important channel where stakeholders can provide their views on the issue of contributions to the investments in connectivity infrastructure. Currently, European providers of electronic communication networks and services claim that they have a low return on investment and are affected by a decreasing market valuation, and, as a result, their future network investments are threatened. This specific point is included in the consultation questionnaire, which is structured along four main sections:

Technological and Market Developments

Views on the impact on future networks and business models for electronic communications can be provided in the response to this first set of questions.

Fairness for Consumers

Here, the Commission addresses the affordability and availability of broadband offers.

Barriers to the Single Market

In this section, the Commission inquires on the viability of full integration of the single market for electronic communications.

Fair Contribution by All Digital Players

In the final set of questions, stakeholders have the opportunity to submit their opinion on a potential mandatory contribution from digital players that rely on networks to deliver content, thus increasing network traffic. 

The last section will be the most debated and controversial, and it has been on the radar of the industry (both telecom and digital companies) and politicians in Brussels for some time now. 

The consultation, which is open for 12 weeks—until 19 May 2023—is a much needed opportunity for industry players whose business is directly or indirectly linked to the Electronic Communications sector and its infrastructure, to provide their views on issues of relevance at an early stage in the policymaking process. Following the consultation, the Commission will report on the results and might take actions that are likely to affect the Electronic Communications sector and the relationship between network operators and users. 

Rebecca Halbach and Kathleen Keating also contributed to this article.

Copyright 2023 K & L GatesNational Law Review, Volume XIII, Number 58

About this Author

Giovanni Campi, KL Gates Law Firm, Financial Services Policy Director
Financial Services Policy Director

Giovanni Campi is financial services policy director in the Brussels office. Mr. Campi, a non-lawyer, has experience of assisting with advocacy strategy, policy analysis, and interest representation on various financial services dossiers, including Supervision, Recovery and Resolution, Capital Requirements, Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), and Benchmarks, among others.

Philip Torbøl, KL Gates, cartel investigations lawyer, merger control attorney

Philip Torbøl is a founding partner of the firm’s Brussels office. His practice focuses on EU competition law and government strategies.

Mr. Torbøl’s competition experience includes advising clients in matters related to the conduct of dominant companies, cartel investigations, merger control, and state aid.  In addition to defending clients before European institutions, Mr. Torbøl’s practice focuses on helping companies define their distribution strategies within the framework of EU competition law – not only preventively, but also to ensure...

Miguel A. Caramello Alvarez Counsel  Brussels Antitrust, Competition & Trade Regulation

Miguel Caramello Alvarez is a counsel at the firm’s Brussels office. He is a member of the antitrust, competition and trade regulation practice group.

He is a regulatory and competition lawyer with extensive experience in the transport sector, in particular on rail. Within his practice, he focuses on all aspects of EU and international rail transport law, competition law and state aid, public procurement, market access and public policy. He provides regulatory and competition representation before the European Commission and other national competition authorities, national rail...


Petr Bartoš is an associate in the firm’s Brussels office. He is a member of the Antitrust, Competition, and Trade Regulation practice group. Prior to joining the firm, Petr served as a trainee consultant for a law firm in Brussels. Through this role, Petr assisted with the coordination of cartel settlement procedures, as well as with development of competition policy strategy for potential complainant, including the analysis of possible remedies. Petr also assisted with business development and legal research.