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5 Jul

Latin American governments urged to detail spectrum awarding plan 

In the last Latin American Telecommunications Congress (CLT19), much of the debate addressed the need to accord more spectrum to operators ahead of the arrival of 5G. Governments should award spectrum with a clear understanding of how it shall assist in achieving digital inclusion goals. That was one of the main outcomes of the CLT19, according to Bnamericas. Until September 2018, Latin American countries had awarded an average of 363,8MHz of spectrum. The amount represents only 28% of the 1300MHz advised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2015. Private stakeholders claimed that regulators should precise a clear view to operators to guarantee that they have legal security to make their investments. Telefónica highlighted that telecom operators make 70% of investment in the digital environment, but receive 40% of the income as a consequence of the over the top (OTT) emergence including Google and Facebook. The company pointed out that the sector has completely changed in the past 20 years and it is still regulated in the same way. The congress also stressed that high prices to award spectrum and taxes will result in less investment in infrastructure and high prices for the end users. The GSMA predicts that 5G technologies will contribute US$20,8 billion to Latin American economies by 2034. Facebook required changes in the regulatory focus because telecommunication is migrating from a voice to a data model. The congress was organised by the Latin American telecoms association (Asiet), the GSMA, the ITU, and Latin American development bank CAF. 


20 Jun

European cities require help from the European Commission to address short-term rental websites expansion

In a common letter, ten European cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, and Paris have stated that the massive growth of short-term rental platforms is increasing rental for locals and changing the face of neighbourhoods. According to the letter, the activities of these online platforms must be on the agenda of the next European commissioners and must be regulated. The letter was triggered by the CJEU’s advocate general opinion, issued in April, that Airbnb, under the EU law, should be considered a digital information provider and not a real estate agent. If the opinion is followed by the CJEU, Airbnb and similar online platforms will be able to operate across EU countries with any responsibility to ensure that owners comply with local rental laws and administrative rules. The European cities believe that houses should be primarily used for living in, and, secondarily, for tourism. City authorities are also concerned that the EU’s efforts to foster e-commerce and sharing-economy platforms will prevent neighbourhoods to remain affordable and liveable for residents.   


20 Jun

CJEU ruled that Email is not a telecom service under EU law

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) repealed the German telecom regulator’s decision to require Google’s email service to register as a telecom service and comply with telecom service obligations. Google alleged that it does not provide communication services because its email relies on internet access providers to transmit and receive messages. The CJEU was referred by a German court to decide whether web-based email service fits under the EU law definition of electronic communications service. The court ruled that Google’s involvement in transmitting email messages is not sufficient to be considered an electronic communication service. Google service does not include internet access, which is the key aspect of the definition of an electronic communication service. The court stressed that differently from Skype, that had an agreement with telecom companies to deliver calls to telephones, Google only uploads and receives data from internet service providers.   

5 Jun

FTTH Council Europe elected a new president and disclosed strategies for 2019

The Fibre to the Home (FTTH) Council of Europe has announced Kees de Waard as the new president of the organisation. The FTTH was created in 2004 and currently has more than 150 members working to promote the benefits of fibre access across Europe. One of the priorities for 2019 is to continue lobbying for a unified position on copper switch off among EU member states. The organisation plans to propose solutions to address regulatory hurdles which prevent Europe from becoming a full fibre continent. It aims at requesting EU authorities to complement the European Electronic Communication Code with guidelines on fibre advertisement.

5 Jun

CJEU ruled that OTT VoIP calling apps are subject to the European telecom regulation

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that services such as Skype, Viber, and Google Hangouts are under the scope of the European telecom regulation and must comply with obligations that apply to traditional telephone services, such as consumer protection, registration, and law enforcement to user communication. The decision was triggered after a Belgian court referred to the CJEU the legal question of whether VoIP services such as Skype should be regulated as a telecom service. Skype has defended itself against the argument by stating that it only provides a software application which relies on an internet connection to make calls to telephone numbers. The CJEU found that Skype assumes responsibility for transmitting calls to telephone numbers by charging consumers and entering into an agreement with telecom service providers to terminate calls. In 2018, the EU has extended telecom regulations to OTT communications services, including VoIP calling apps in the EU’s new telecom code. However, the regulation will enter into force in December 2020.  

5 Jun

Airbnb listings are back in Japan a year after stricter regulation

In 2018, eighty percent of Airbnb listings available in Japan were removed after the government set a deadline for hosts to register their listed properties. Airbnb achieved a more cooperative approach with the government and legalized the majority of the properties available for short-term rental on their platform. The legalisation of the listings has allowed local corporations to enter the short-term housing market. SoftBank Group Corporation, electronics retailer Bic Camera Inc. and airline company ANA Holdings Inc. will collaborate with Airbnb helping supply a pipeline of properties for lease or purchase that re home-sharing friendly.

24 May

TRAI to decide whether messaging, voice and video OTT services will be regulated in India

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) may decide soon whether to regulate over-the-top companies like WhatsApp and Skype. The Telecom regulator is under pressure from telecom companies that have demanded a level playing field and are allegedly incurring huge losses due to these OTTs players competition. Telecom service providers claim that there is a regulatory imbalance because OTTs offer similar services without the licensing and regulatory burden they face. If the TRAI decides to bring OTT services under telecom regulation then they will be required to get a license from the government to operate in the country.

2 May

Australia to stop regulating SMS services

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has decided to no longer regulate SMS services because over-the-top (OTT) messaging services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage provide enough competition in the sector. With several competitors, SMS services do not represent a bottleneck to accessing the end user. Therefore, companies will be free to set SMS charges. In 2015, the ACCC had regulated SMS pricing for the first time, however, the Commission recognizes the market has changed considerably since then. The ACCC holds that voice services will continue to be regulated, because OTT voice services do not replace yet mobile voice calls. They do not offer the same access and quality of traditional voice services.

1 May

CJEU advocate general: Airbnb is an information society service

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a legal opinion to the CJEU, affirming that Airbnb is an information society service. The legal opinion is not binding, but the court takes the advice of its advocate general in the majority of the cases. The judgment is expected later in the year. The case was referred by a court in Paris, where a French tourism association claimed that Airbnb should be submitted to the same accounting, insurance, and financial obligations as providers of real estate. The advocate general holds that Airbnb is not a real estate broker, therefore, should not have its activities ruled by French real estate laws. He believes that Airbnb provides a service to connect potential guests with hosts offering short-term accommodation ‘in a situation in which the provider of that service does not exercise control over the essential procedures for the provisions of those services’. Under the terms of the E-Commerce Directive, this practice concerns information society services. The directive allows businesses to provide information services across EU member states without restriction. This case will have significant consequences on how EU member states regulate Airbnb activities. The platform has been fighting claims from European cities, including Paris, Brussels, and Madrid, that it should be more heavily regulated. If its activities are understood as information society services by the CJEU, states in the EU will be more limited on how they can regulate the platform. In 2017, the CJEU had ruled that Uber was not only an information society service but a transportation service provider. This ruling allowed EU member states to impose restrictions on Uber’s activities.

23 Apr

Airbnb will stop removing West Bank listings

Airbnb reversed a previous decision to remove around 200 listings of Israeli properties in the West Bank. The rental sharing-economy decided to allow settlement properties to be listed on its platform. However, all the profits from the rental of those properties will be donated to non-profit humanitarian aid organisations in different parts of the world. The decision was criticised by human rights activists who claimed that Airbnb will remain complicit in the violations the settlements provoke by continuing to do business in the settlements. Airbnb decided to allow these places to continue being listed on the platform after being sued in the US federal court by 12 American-Israeli citizens with homes in the settlements. They alleged, in the lawsuit, that as a provider of a service to the public, Airbnb is not allowed to refuse to provide its services to particular religious groups. ​

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