Alarms sound over changes to EU roaming, net neutrality and privacy rules

The European Parliament’s liberal-centrist bloc has warned over changes being made by EU countries to incoming telecoms legislation, saying they will severely weaken efforts to introduce unified net neutrality rules and eliminate mobile roaming surcharges for people moving between member states.

The Council of the European Union, which represents member states, is expected to present its position on Wednesday regarding the Telecoms Single Market proposal – this follows the European Commission’s original proposal and changes made by the Parliament, and will trigger negotiations over the final text. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE) said Tuesday that the Council’s position is so watered down that it would undermine campaign pledges made by Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the Parliament that came in last year.

Meanwhile, digital rights groups have released leaked documents relating to the Council’s under-development position on a separate legislative package, the new General Data Protection Regulation. The version that left Parliament would introduce very tough new rules for companies and governments handling EU citizens’ personal data, but it appears member states have been agitating for these rules to be weakened.

Roaming rumble

The member states’ keenness to water down the net neutrality proposals is already well documented, with the countries apparently aiming for aspirational principles rather than tough new rules. However, the roaming aspect of the telecoms package is also contentious.

The Commission’s original proposal would have eliminated intra-EU roaming fees, allowing people to move around EU countries without having to pay more for mobile access than they would pay at home. This is integral to the European single market project – cross-border services won’t get anywhere if you can’t freely use them across borders.

However, the Council appears set to allow carriers to charge roaming surcharges for anything above a measly 5MB of data per day. The surcharges would be capped at the maximum wholesale rates charged between carriers, but they would still stymie the original intention of the legislation.

According to ALDE president Guy Verhofstadt:

This is a scandal. An end to roaming charges and the delivery of a genuine single market for telecoms was a campaign priority for all parties, many of whom are today responsible for blocking this measure…

To say this text lacks ambition is an understatement. Certainly our group will not accept this text, as the only winner from it is national telecoms operators themselves. Member States should hang their heads in shame.

Privacy shambles

As for the new data protection package, which is also intended to unify the disparate rules of the 28 EU member states, the rights groups EDRi, Access, Privacy International and the Panoptykon Foundation have warned that the package is “becoming an empty shell”.

On Tuesday the groups issued an analysis (PDF) of leaked documents about the Council’s position on the regulation. Here are the main points to worry about, according to EDRi et al:

  • Consent: The proposals would allow the failure of browser users to opt out of being tracked to be read as a form of consent for tracking and profiling. They would also weaken the limitations on what that consent can allow. “Germany undermines transparency still further by proposing that consent should cover unknown future uses of the data for ‘scientific’ purposes,” the analysis read.
  • Data subject rights: Gone is the article that would mandate “concise, transparent, clear and easily accessible policies” about data use. Governments would also be allowed to cite “national security, defence, public security and ‘other important objectives of general public interest'” as legitimate reasons for profiling people.
  • Fines and remedies: The new rules were supposed to introduce fines of up to five percent of annual turnover for serious data protection infringements, as a deterrent to the likes of [company]Google[/company], who shrug off today’s fines. The new proposals would lower that amount. The possibility of class action lawsuits would also be nixed, and individuals suing over data protection will only be able to take it to local regulators, not courts.
  • Data breach notifications: Companies would only have to tell people that their data has been stolen if the theft is “high risk”.
  • Cross-border complaints: There’s supposed to be an EU “one stop shop” for data protection complaints, which makes sense as the whole point of this regulation is to create a unified EU framework. But no, the Council would want multiple national data protection regulators to be brought in first to try reach consensus, because member states don’t want to cede control.

The deadline on this one is a bit further out, with the Council expected to produce its position on the data protection regulation in the summer, before commencing negotiations with the other legislative branches of the EU.

According to EDRi: “Unless something is done urgently, the Council will simply complete its agreement, at which stage only an absolute majority of the European Parliament would be the only way of saving Europe’s data protection reform.”

I have asked the Latvian presidency of the Council (it’s a rotating presidency) for comment on the leaks, but haven’t received a reply at the time of writing.

BT agrees to $19B takeover of EE, paving way for close DT relationship

The negotiations are over: pending regulatory approval, BT will get back into the U.K.’s mobile scene in a big way by buying EE from Deutsche Telekom and Orange for £12.5 billion ($19 billion).

This means BT will be able to sell fully-converged bundles of fixed and mobile connectivity, telephony and pay TV services. It will also leave Germany’s Deutsche Telekom as BT’s biggest individual shareholder, and DT’s chief is already talking about the big European national telecoms giants working together more closely in the future.

“The UK’s leading 4G network will now dovetail with the U.K.’s biggest fiber network, helping to create the leading converged communications provider in the U.K.,” BT CEO Gavin Patterson said in a statement. “Consumers and businesses will benefit from new products and services as well as from increased investment and innovation.”

The companies began exclusive talks in December last year after BT said it was interested in buying either EE or O2. After BT and EE went exclusive, Three UK owner Hutchison Whampoa said it was in talks to buy Telefónica’s O2.

If both those deals go through, the U.K. will be left with three network-owning mobile operators, rather than four (the other one is Vodafone). Regulators will need to take this into account, along with the various chunks of spectrum that the companies own — despite only explicitly talking about business services at the time, BT bought 4G spectrum in 2013’s big auction.

It remains to be seen whether Europe’s competition regulators will take an interest, or whether it will be down to the UK Competition and Markets Authority.

EE is the U.K.’s largest mobile carrier, comprising as it does two former carriers, T-Mobile UK and Orange. It has 24.5 million direct mobile customers, 834,000 fixed broadband customers and a bunch more people who use EE mobile services resold under different virtual operator brands. In total, it services 31 million people, or roughly half the country.

The deal will be a cash-share combination, leaving Deutsche Telekom with a 12 percent stake in BT and one non-executive board member, and France’s Orange with a four percent stake.

“The transaction is much more than just the creation of the leading integrated fixed and mobile network operator in Europe’s second largest economy,” DT CEO Tim Höttges said in the statement. “We will be the largest individual shareholder in BT and are laying the foundations for our two companies to be able to work together in the future.”

Facebook faces fight in Europe over new privacy policy

Last week Facebook rolled out a new privacy policy that allows the sharing of data between its various services, such as Instagram and the Atlas ad unit, and the tracking of users across much of the web. At the time, Hamburg’s data protection chief said he was preparing to coordinate with counterparts across Europe to see what might need to be done about this.

Now, according to IDG, EU data protection officials have formed a task force to deal with the matter, on the basis that Facebook’s new policy may well contravene European privacy laws.

The privacy policies of the big U.S. web giants, which make their money by tracking users in great detail so as to sell their profiles to advertisers, have long been a sore point in the EU. On Friday Google and the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced a settlement to a long-running investigation over that company’s policy – Google will give users more information about how their data collected and shared between services, and perhaps a little more control over how this happens.

This will apply across the world, not just in the U.K., but it remains to be seen whether it will mollify regulators in continental Europe who have spent the last couple years fining Google over its practices. For one thing, the U.K. settlement measures don’t seem to include an explicit opt-in for the sharing of personal data across services, as privacy officials in other EU countries had demanded.

According to IDG, the regulators are now examining several aspects of the behavior allowed by Facebook’s new policy: its off-site tracking of users across sites and apps that are connected to Facebook services, its sharing of data with third parties, its use of personal information and images for commercial purposes, and again the general lack of explicit opt-in user consent for much of this.

Facebook’s new terms aren’t quite the unified privacy policy that Google created — there’s still a data wall between WhatsApp and Facebook, for one thing — but the effects are broadly similar when it comes to mixing and matching personal data between Facebook’s units. In the cases of both Facebook and Google, those units have surprisingly extensive reach across the web and apps.

Here are a few of the key passages in Facebook’s policy:

We collect information when you visit or use third-party websites and apps that use our Services (like when they offer our Like button or Facebook Log In or use our measurement and advertising services). This includes information about the websites and apps you visit, your use of our Services on those websites and apps, as well as information the developer or publisher of the app or website provides to you or us.
Information from third-party partners.

We receive information about you and your activities on and off Facebook from third-party partners, such as information from a partner when we jointly offer services or from an advertiser about your experiences or interactions with them.

Sharing With Third-Party Partners and Customers: We work with third party companies who help us provide and improve our Services or who use advertising or related products, which makes it possible to operate our companies and provide free services to people around the world.

This is all quite similar to what Google does, and the reaction seems set to follow a similar course. In Google’s case, the regulators also banded together to coordinate assaults on a national level. With regulators in Belgium, the Netherlands and now Germany already sniffing around Facebook’s new privacy policy, the company probably has a substantial fight on its hands.

Facebook said in an emailed statement:

We recently updated our terms and policies to make them more clear and concise, to reflect new product features and to highlight how we’re expanding people’s control over advertising. We’re confident the updates comply with applicable laws. As a company with international headquarters in Dublin, we routinely review product and policy updates­ including this one with our regulator, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, who oversees our compliance with the EU Data Protection Directive as implemented under Irish law.

PS – If you want to opt out of some of the tracking permitted through the new Facebook privacy policy, here’s the relevant settings page.

This article was updated at 7am PT to include Facebook’s statement.

Web inventor warns against zero-rating net neutrality threat

Zero-rating – where carriers charge nothing or very little for the data used by specific apps and web services – is a threat to net neutrality, web inventor Tim Berners-Lee has warned.

The practice is becoming very popular, with mobile operators in particular making special offers that exempt services such as [company]Facebook[/company] and [company]Spotify[/company] from customers’ normal data caps. This steers users to those specific services and harms their rivals, whose traffic becomes much more expensive to the user.

Berners-Lee slammed zero-rating on Tuesday in a guest post on the blog of EU digital single market commissioner Andrus Ansip, who is a staunch supporter of net neutrality and is currently trying to get EU member states to agree to the strong net neutrality rules voted through by the European Parliament last year.

However, those rules don’t call out zero-rating, also known as positive price discrimination, as a net neutrality violation. The European Commission has also so far held back from defining it as such.

Here’s what the web pioneer wrote in his pro-net-neutrality piece:

Of course, [net neutrality] is not just about blocking and throttling. It is also about stopping ‘positive discrimination’, such as when one internet operator favours one particular service over another. If we don’t explicitly outlaw this, we hand immense power to telcos and online service operators. In effect, they can become gatekeepers — able to handpick winners and the losers in the market and to favour their own sites, services and platforms over those of others. This would crowd out competition and snuff out innovative new services before they even see the light of day.

I asked Ansip’s office whether he agreed with Berners-Lee’s views, and was told that, although the guest posts don’t reflect official Commission positions, Ansip considers the post to be “an important contribution to the debate on net neutrality.”

As things stand, the Latvian presidency of the Council of the European Union – the body that represents the government of member states – is busy working out its position on the EU’s almost-concluded Telecoms Single Market Regulation, which includes the new net neutrality laws.

Under the Council’s previous Italian presidency, leaks suggested that the member states were going to dilute the net neutrality provisions by making them aspirational rather than set in stone. However, the Commission and Parliament both pushed back hard, and negotiations are ongoing.

The Council indicated in January that, although some member states were keen on banning zero-rating, opposition from other member states meant there wasn’t enough support to insert an explicit clause about this into the new regulation.

In the meantime, countries such as the Netherlands, Slovenia and Norway have pushed ahead with national bans on zero-rating. Outside Europe, Chile and Canada have done the same.

If anyone wants to hassle the Latvian presidency of the Council about the need for strong net neutrality rules, Berners-Lee supplied a handy pre-written tweet. It might also be worth reminding them that the U.S. looks set to embrace strong net neutrality – ironically, a year ago the old Commission was taunting the U.S. for dithering on net neutrality when Europe was preparing to take a firm stance.

Google to give all users clearer information about data use

Google has vowed to revise its privacy policy and account settings, in order to make it clearer to people what it does with their data and give them more control. This comes as part of a settlement with the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office, announced on Friday, but the changes will apply globally.

The ICO and other data protection regulators across the EU have been coordinating a crackdown on Google’s practices since 2012, when the company introduced a new unified privacy policy. The unified policy allowed [company]Google[/company] to mix and match personal data across its various services – between YouTube and Search, for example. However, many people did not, and still do not, appreciate what this means in terms of user profiling.

Google has faced repeated fines over its refusal to change the policy in countries such as France, Italy and Germany, but the sums involved were chickenfeed for a company of Google’s girth. The U.K.’s ICO hasn’t fined Google in this way, but has repeatedly said that Google’s settlement proposals didn’t go far enough.

Now this long-running drama may be drawing to a close. On Friday the ICO triumphantly brandished an undertaking in which Google said it would do the following things during the next two years:

  • Make its privacy policy easier to find, and be clearer in that policy about what user information it processes and why.
  • Provide users with “information to exercise their rights” and launch a redesigned account settings version to give them more control.
  • Add two provisions from the Google terms of service to the privacy policy, regarding email data and the “shared endorsement” feature.
  • Add to the privacy policy information about “the entities that may collect anonymous identifiers on Google properties and the purposes to which they put that data.”
  • “Take several measures” to tell passive users – those using third-party services that are plugged into Google services, such as advertising – more about what’s happening with their data. Those running the third-party services will also need to “obtain the necessary consents” for this data collection.
  • “Enhance its guidance for employees regarding notice and consent requirements.”

Google also said it would continuously evaluate the privacy impact of future changes to its services and keep users informed, especially where the changes “might not be within the reasonable expectations of service users.” Particularly significant changes to the privacy policy will be “reviewed by user experience specialists and with representative user groups before the policy and associated tools are launched as appropriate.”

The changes will make sure Google is compliant with the U.K. Data Protection Act, which is based on European law. It is not yet clear whether this is the end of the matter as far as the other EU data protection authorities are concerned — I understand that the changes will apply in all countries around the world, though.

Here’s what ICO enforcement head Steve Eckersley said in a statement:

Google’s commitment today to make these necessary changes will improve the information UK consumers receive when using their online services and products.

Whilst our investigation concluded that this case hasn’t resulted in substantial damage and distress to consumers, it is still important for organisations to properly understand the impact of their actions and the requirement to comply with data protection law… This investigation has identified some important learning points not only for Google, but also for all organisations operating online, particularly when they seek to combine and use data across services.

Although the list of commitments is fairly comprehensive, some terms are vague and the proof may lie in the implementation. For example, the EU privacy watchdogs previously demanded that users get the opportunity to “choose when their data are combined, for instance with dedicated buttons in the services.” That’s not merely a matter of giving users “information to exercise their rights”, so it will be interesting to see what the redesigned account settings entail.

So far, Google has merely said:

We’re pleased that the ICO has decided to close its investigation. We have agreed improvements to our privacy policy and will continue to work constructively with the Commissioner and his team in the future.

Even if this does indicate a conclusion to the unified privacy policy saga, then Google still faces major regulatory headaches in Europe. These include the big search antitrust case – tied in with digital agenda commissioner Günther Oettinger’s apparent desire to extend a version of the “Google tax” copyright levy across Europe – and a potential second antitrust case over Android.

Still, one at a time, eh?

This article was updated at 8.15am PT to note that the changes will apply globally.

Dutch and Slovenian regulators nail carriers over net neutrality

While the European Union dithers over EU-wide net neutrality, some European countries are marching on regardless. On Friday Slovenia’s regulators nailed carriers Telekom Slovenije and Si.mobil for violating net neutrality principles, and on Tuesday Dutch regulators fined KPN and Vodafone for similar violations.

The latest ruling, by the Dutch consumer protection agency ACM, saw [company]KPN[/company] fined €250,000 ($283,000) and [company]Vodafone[/company] €200,000. KPN was caught for blocking some VoIP services on its free Wi-Fi hotspots, and Vodafone was zero-rating the [company]HBO[/company] Go app – that is, it was providing free traffic for that service in particular, a practise technically known as “positive price discrimination”.

ACM’s statement read in part:

In addition to the ban on blocking, internet providers may also not charge differing tariffs for the use of services and applications on the internet. This contributes to an open internet. An open internet is important for freely disseminating information and increasing choice on the internet.

The Slovenian ruling was also about zero-rating: [company]Telekom Slovenije[/company] has been providing free data for the music streamer [company]Deezer[/company], and [company]Si.mobil[/company] for cloud storage service [company]Hanger Mapa[/company]. Those carriers now have two months to stop breaking the rules.

The European Parliament voted for strong net neutrality rules in April 2014, but since then the legislative process has stalled, largely due to some member states demanding vague principles rather than strictly-defined terms. The European Commission is dead set against this development, so it and the Council of the European Union, which represents the states, are currently negotiating a compromise.

However, even if that legislation’s strong definitions survive, it doesn’t ban zero-rating, which some argue is not a net neutrality issue because users can still access services other than those being zero-rated, even if it means using up their data allowance.

Those who argue that it is a net neutrality issue maintain that it violates the principles because it favors particular services and apps over others. That includes regulators in the Netherlands, Slovenia, Norway (not part of the EU but part of the European Economic Area, where EU net neutrality legislation would apply), and Chile (definitely nowhere near the EU.)

Last week the Latvian Presidency of the Council indicated that proposals to include an explicit ban on zero-rating in the EU-wide net neutrality legislation would not gain enough support among the states. Some had also suggested making selective blocking a self-regulatory matter, but those proposals seem to be sunk as they would conflict with existing EU legislation and fundamental rights.

In other words, the current situation – where zero-rating is banned in some European countries but not others – looks set to continue into the foreseeable future, whether or not a broader ban on blocking and throttling comes into force.

The problem with Uber’s European job promises

The newly humble Uber has made its pitch to city officials around Europe by promising the creation of “50,000 jobs” during 2015 – if mayors and their transport departments play nice and change their taxi regulations.

On Sunday, in a company blog post and a speech by CEO Travis Kalanick at the DLD conference in Munich (embedded below), Uber called for partnerships with European cities that it said would increase efficiency and reduce emissions. All that’s needed is for the cities to make like Kolkata and stop trying to make Uber play by the same rules as taxi firms. On Friday a suburb of the Indian city (not the whole of Kolkata, despite what Uber says) decided Uber was an IT firm rather than a cab service – a decision at odds with that made in other cities such as New Delhi.

Kalanick and his firm also claimed that E.U. taxis frequently operate “off-grid” (which may come as news to his more tightly-regulated rivals) and said the introduction of Uber would “increase transportation providers’ compliance and overall tax revenue for cities and countries across Europe.” Uber also pointed to its recent launch of city data-sharing programs, saying it could help manage growth, reduce congestion and so on.

What’s a job?

For a start, I personally find Uber’s definition of a “job” to be a bit confusing. One slide in Kalanick’s DLD presentation talked about the jobs that have been created in various cities through Uber’s presence: 7,500 in San Francisco, 13,750 in New York, 7,800 in London (according to Kalanick himself; the slide said 10,000). However, Kalanick started off this part of the talk by carefully referring to “equivalent full-time jobs” – “Remember, we have people driving on the Uber platform full-time, and people driving 5-10 hours a week” — then slipped into plain old “jobs”.

So, is this 50,000 actual full-time jobs or a combination of full-time jobs and many part-time jobs that all add up to the equivalent of 50,000 full-time jobs? If tax is the public authorities’ concern, then this distinction makes a significant difference. Someone who’s making a small amount of money on Uber may not, if that’s their only income, be liable for any income tax at all due to minimum thresholds. Of course, this will only account for a certain proportion of the people we’re talking about, but a breakdown is necessary if cities are to look beyond the attraction of the headline figures.

I’m assuming that Uber’s enthusiasm for greater tax revenues is limited to income and sales tax – the company has established a complex network of subsidiaries to ensure that it itself pays very little corporation tax.

Most seriously, we must also remember that these jobs, whatever the numbers, are positions of self-employment that don’t come with any job security or social benefits. This status also creates issues around liability – an implication of the Bidhannagar/Kolkata decision that has been keenly debated.

On a side note, I was also struck by Kalanick’s claim that Uber could give cities “more efficiency on your existing mass transit options”. Yes, tempting people off mass transit and into Uber cars (or, better from an environmental perspective, UberPool cars) would ease the burden on said mass transit, but it would also reduce revenues, meaning that the public option may need to become more expensive or less well-maintained – both good outcomes for the private alternatives.

Political impact

I do agree with Kalanick about protectionism, to an extent at least. The taxi firms that have been giving Uber a hard time and bending local politicians’ ears obviously don’t want price-cutting competition, and rules that limit the numbers of transportation providers in a given city should be up for debate.

That said, I still firmly believe that the traditional cabbies are right to complain about competition that is allowed to operate according to different rules, putting them in a disadvantageous position. City officials do need to formulate new rules, but they need to be very cautiously calibrated to ensure safety and accountability.

What’s more, those officials have to recognise that the kind of employment Uber is pitching marks a big socio-political change, particularly in broadly social-democratic Europe. Kalanick may be in favor of European-style (debatable, I know) social insurance programs such as Obamacare because they “allow people to have more flexible ways to make a living”, but the model he’s pushing would deny such programs any employer contributions. Depending on the country, this would put more of the social insurance burden on the state and/or the self-employed driver.

That’s great for aggregators such as Uber, which are absolved of any responsibility for their not-employees’ healthcare, pension and general social wellbeing, but not so great for the public authorities running such schemes.

Perhaps services such as Uber do represent the future of urban transportation — there is a genuine case to be made for the impact on emissions and efficiency, particularly when it comes to carpooling. But, as they manage the transition into the future, city and national officials had better take the more seductive claims about revenue with a scoop of salt, and think very carefully about the implications.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iayagHygV0Q&w=560&h=315]

This article was updated on January 20th to note that it was only a suburb of Kolkata, not the whole city, that recognized Uber as an IT company.

EU publishes details of Amazon Luxembourg “state aid” tax probe

Last year the European Commission opened an in-depth investigation into Amazon’s Luxembourg tax arrangements, which may be illegal. Amazon funnels its European revenues through a complex transfer pricing set-up in the duchy, effectively resulting in an especially low tax rate (see also: Skype). This nets Luxembourg a lot for a country that size, but countries in the rest of the EU get way less than they should. On Friday the Commission published a public version (PDF) of its decision to launch the investigation, detailing why it thinks the 2003 arrangement represented a special deal for the company, making it illegal state aid. If the investigation finds as much, Amazon may have to pay a whole bunch of back taxes.

The curious case of Angela Merkel and her EU data retention ideas

In the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on the European Commission to deliver on its “promise” of a new EU-wide data retention directive to replace the one struck down by the EU’s highest court last year.

Merkel wants to implement this new directive into German law. There’s only one problem: the Commission doesn’t seem to have promised any such thing, at least not in public.

The Court of Justice of the European Union struck down the Data Retention Directive 2006 in April of last year because it was disproportionate and had insufficient safeguards. The directive had mandated that EU countries had to force telecommunications firms to retain metadata about their customers’ communications for between six and 24 months. Even before the CJEU scrapped it, Germany had already stopped implementing it on constitutional grounds.

On Thursday, according to a DPA report, Merkel told German parliamentarians:

Given the cross-party conviction among all interior ministers, both state-level and federal, that we need such minimum retention periods, we should insist that the revision of the directive promised by the EU Commission is quickly completed and then implemented into German law.

That DPA report claims “Brussels is drafting a follow-up that meets the judges’ standards,” but that’s not what the Commission says.

Last month, Netzpolitik reported that new Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos was planning to make such an announcement, and that his department was “now reflecting on the how, rather than the if.” However, after that report came out, the department backtracked, with a spokeswoman saying: “I meant that we are now reflecting on the how to take things forward, rather than if we need a new directive or not.”

Avramopoulos’s predecessor, Cecilia Malmström, had previously said she wouldn’t propose any new data retention directive until the EU’s new data protection rules had been finalized – something that now may not happen before 2016.

An EU source confirmed to me today that the Commission is taking its time evaluating the issues raised by the CJEU ruling, and intends to have an open dialog with the European Parliament, member states, civil society, law enforcement and data protection authorities. Only then will it be able to decide whether there is a need for a new proposal, the source said.

Technically, Merkel could try setting up a new German data protection law without a broader EU directive. However, her own justice minister has firmly rejected the mass surveillance idea, telling German television a few days ago: “With data retention, we also store all data from journalists and restrict freedom of the press. That does not fit together.”

She would also need to somehow make sure that her data retention law didn’t fall foul of the arguments the CJEU used to strike down the EU Data Retention Directive, advice from the EU Legal Service division suggests.

EU seeks opinions on using 700MHz spectrum for mobile broadband

When it comes to freeing up the valuable 700MHz airwaves for mobile broadband, Europe’s wheels are slowly turning. Last September, former trade commissioner Pascal Lamy recommended that the spectrum should be made available for mobile broadband use by 2020 — it is currently used for TV and wireless mics in the E.U., while the U.S. and Asia already use it for 4G. Now the European Commission has launched a consultation on the Lamy report, seeking public opinion with an April 12th deadline. The U.K. recently announced plans to free up 700MHz by 2022. The spectrum is valuable because low frequencies carry data over long distances and are good for in-building coverage.