Information and Communication Technologies have an economic, social, political, and environmental impact. They are the base of modernization of private and public life, as well as a force of growth and job creation, and a fertile ground for innovation and creativity.
Looking at recent developments and changes in the Mediterranean region, the call for strengthening ties of cross-borders regulatory cooperation, is more important and crucial than ever. Indeed, neighborly cooperation between countries of the Mediterranean is an effective way to create sustainable electronic communications markets for the benefit of consumers and enterprises; and bridge the digital divide, making the benefits of the information society available to all.
Regulators of EMERG believe that a tight cooperation in the Mediterranean region and the constant exchange of best practices and sector expertise amongst regulators are fundamental to develop a common Euro-Mediterranean market for electronic communications.
Today, looking at what has been accomplished; EMERG can be considered an example for regional cooperation that reflects the real meaning of approximation and harmonization with best international practices, and an effective frame of dialogue and knowledge transformation in the field of specialty.
Building on what we have achieved and to ensure the efficiency of EMERG at this stage, where more critical issues and more essential steps need to be taken to secure the continuity and the development of its role and activities, we are all invited to reaffirm our commitment to EMERG as an ongoing success, therefore, we need to focus in strengthening and developing its internal structure and external visibility, through an improved communication strategy and an active cooperation policy with other international and regional entities, which can be considered as a key driver element in the future of EMERG.
H.E. Mr. Mohammad Al-Taani
EMERG Chairman - 2014
In its efforts to increase cooperation with other bodies sharing the same interest in effective electronic communications regulation through the promotion of competitive markets, technological innovation and protection of consumers, EMERG has signed, on the 23rd of April 2014, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications.
The goal of the MoU is to encourage a cooperative relationship between the participants that supports efforts to address current and future regulatory challenges in both the Southern Mediterranean region and Europe, as well as to develop collegial working relationships between experts representing both groups.
The initial term of the MoU is for two years and will include various common activities. Both groups will determine by mutual arrangements the regulatory issues to be addressed through the cooperative relationship. These issues can vary from broadband, spectrum, roaming tariffs to any other regulatory matter of common interest.
The annual meeting of the Regulatory Associations, which precedes the Global Symposium for Regulators 2014 took place in Manama, Bahrain on the afternoon of June 2, 2014 and was organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in collaboration with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of Bahrain.
The meeting of Regional Associations of Regulators provides an opportunity to discuss, exchange information and build bridges to a better and more active cooperation between Associations of Regulators existing in different regions.
The topics for discussion focused on the regulation of broadband services whether in terms of consumer protection with regard to quality of service or updates on developments regarding net neutrality and OTT services. The discussion revolved also around any impact on regulations as well as issues such as Internet governance, theft, counterfeiting and gray market terminals within regional contexts.
EMERG has actively participated in the meeting’s sessions, giving three presentations, as follows:
The first EMERG workshop in 2014 was about “Broadband service regulation” and it was hosted by Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) in Amman on 16-17 June.
This workshop aimed at addressing the subject of Broadband service regulation, in view of consumer protection with regard to broadband speed, contractual and delivered speeds. Other aspects of quality of service, updates on developments with regard to net neutrality, OTT services and any impact on regulations were also at the heart of the discussion.
Nine member NRAs participated to this workshop among which Austria, Egypt, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Portugal and Tunisia. In addition, HAKOM, the Croatian regulator joined for the first time and participated to the workshop.
The group discussed and shared information regarding the situation and frameworks that have been put in place in each member state mainly in relation with quality of service regulation and consumer protection. At the end of the workshop, participants presented their country specific status and exchanged ideas on different approaches to handle consumer protection and quality of service assurance as well as the possibility and desirability of planning steps for approximation by the non EU member states countries to the EU model.
Finally, it was agreed that the continuity of maintaining quality assurance by a broadband service provider is an obligation in which minimum ranges of advertised internet speeds should be set and maintained as a standard. This should protect consumers from the manipulation of “up to” advertisements, and it should constitute a commitment for broadband quality of service. Participants have also confirmed the benefit of consumer awareness whether via web and application based informative QoS measurement tools or via maintaining a social network communication channel. Consequently, the advantage of the consumer awareness build-up delivers the element of transparency and competition for the telecommunications market and sets the path for market maturity.
For the first time since its inception, EMERG participated formally to the Regulatel summit. Mr. Mohammad Al-Taani, current chair of EMERG, has participated at the BEREC-REGULATEL summit which took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, between 21 and 22 July, under the topic "Internet and regulatory challenges”. This summit between the European regulators and the Latin American ones also featured the participation of the European Commission, ICANN and ITU.
Mr. Mohammad Al-Taani spoke about "NGN among EMERG members", referring mainly to the conclusions of the EMERG workshop on NGN, held in Cyprus in 2013. In this context, Mr. Al-Taani mentioned the sharp cleavage between MENA countries and European partners; the fact that even among MENA countries there are big differences. He also presented the Jordanian broadband promotion policy and the launch of 4G access, in December this year.
On September 30th, 2014, in Brussels, digital economy ministerial representatives from the Euro-Mediterranean countries, the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Secretariat, telecoms regulators, development banks and EU institutions gathered at the European Council's building to discuss and decide on closer cooperation, aiming at taking advantage from the benefits of the digital economy for Euro-Mediterranean populations.
Nelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission and responsible for the digital agenda dossier, has participated at this UfM Ministerial meeting, stating a clear European support towards the Southern Mediterranean neighbors, especially in the context of the so called new economy. The Jordan ICT Minister and the Secretary General of the UfM have also expressed their full commitment to achieve a greater and more sustained development, integration and economic growth of the entire Mediterranean region, based on the benefits of the digital economy. They have also underlined that there are still remaining challenges for which solutions must be found. To this end, participants agreed to cooperate closer in areas, such as the use of open data and e-government, the dialogue between national telecoms regulators around the Mediterranean, the connectivity between scientific and research communities, and to set an eHealth cooperation strategy.
EMERG was represented by the current Chair (TRC, Jordan) and the 2015 Chair (CNMC, Spain). Both representatives gave speeches on EMERG's main achievements so far, stressing on the will to keep strengthening the regulatory cooperation. Other members from the Secretariat were also present at the meeting such as ANACOM Portugal and TRA Lebanon.
From EMERG's point of view, some points agreed upon during the UfM meeting is of high importance and very positive for the future of the group. The Ministers agreed that the ICT solutions are crucial to address economic and societal challenges. They underlined “the importance of ensuring the right regulatory environment to facilitate the creation of a harmonized, pro-competitive and thus investment-friendly environment in the electronic communications sector, and with that accelerate the development of the EU-Southern Mediterranean Digital Economy”. The participants also agreed to “pursue a regular, specific recommendations-based regulator/ministry exchange at Senior Official level, with the involvement of further other stakeholders. This would include an exchange and cooperation between Ministries and functionally independent Regulators as a key factor for the development of the regulatory framework both at a national, regional and EU-Southern Mediterranean level.”