Universal Service Directive: Commission refers Portugal to the Court

8 Nov 2018

The European Commission (EC) has referred Portugal to the Court of Justice of the EU to ensure the correct implementation of the Universal Service Directive, as regards the financing of universal service obligations. This is according to a press release dated 8 November 2018.

EU member states are allowed to introduce compensation mechanisms to balance the costs of the provision of universal services, which are not always profitable. However, according to the release Portuguese authorities have imposed an obligation on telecom operators and service providers to compensate the net costs of all universal services provided from 2007. Portugal did this in 2012 by exploring the possibilities of the Electronic Communication Law (No 5/2004), and enacting a new law that establishes an extraordinary contribution by the operators.

The EC finds this obligation levied on operators contrary to EU law. This is because it infringes on the requirements of transparency, non-discrimination, and market distortion established by the Directive 2002/22/EC) which is in force since 2002. Therefore, the EC is calling on the Court of Justice of the EU to confirm that the compensation obligation infringes this directive.

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Jurisdiction is the authority of the court and state organs to decide on legal cases. The relationship between jurisdiction and the Internet has been ambiguous, since jurisdiction rests predominantly on the geographical division of the globe into national territories. Each state has the sovereign right to exercise jurisdiction over its territory.

Internet access is growing rapidly, yet large groups of people remain unconnected to the Internet. As of 2015, about 43% of people had access to the Internet (in developing countries only 34%). Access to ICTs is part of the Sustainable Development Agenda, which commits to ‘significantly increase access to ICTs and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020’ (Goal 9.c).


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