What is the scope of telecommunications law?
There is no standardised definition of the term „telecommunications”, and therefore the scope of telecommunications law changes according to definition. In any case, it comprises the Telecommunications Act. The purpose of this act is to encourage competition in the area of telecommunications by means of regulations, to provide for extensive, appropriate and sufficient services, as well as to establish a frequency regulation (§ 1 Telecommunications Act).
The liberalisation of the telecommunications market has been initiated by means of two postal reforms. The basis of telecommunications law is the Telecommunications Act of 25 July 1996. The purpose of the regulatory activity, which has been defined in the Constitution (Art. 87f), in the Telecommunications Act and EC guidelines, i.e. an extensive, appropriate, sufficient and competitive supply, leaves, however, many questions unanswered.
These include among others licence and frequency assignment to telecommunications network operators, ensuring basic telecommunications services throughout Germany as well as the issue of ensuring fair competition. Setting up a structurally separate regulatory authority in addition to the Federal Cartel Office makes the task of supervision as provided for by the Telecommunications Act a rather complex one. Disputes concerning creating the level field for competitors in the telecommunications market are not easy to solve, either.
Legal differentiation between diverse technical media such as radio, television, telecommunication, teleservices and media services seems to be outdated in the light of increasing technical unification in the course of digitalisation. It must be admitted, though, that legal framework, both within Europe and worldwide, has not caught up with technical developments, either.
Other issues arise if we take on the perspective of a consumer. He is not interested in whether it would have been better if the Federal Cartel Office had been given the tasks that the Regulatory Authority performs. A consumer associates “telecommunications” in the first place with voice telephony, information services, Value Added Network Services (VANS), internet services and also - in the future - with Universal Mobile Telecommunications System services (UMTS). A consumer will also be concerned with “undesired” services, such as the so called dialers, programmes that secretly change a dialup connection setting so that instead of calling a local internet provider, a PC calls another – usually expensive – number.
What functions does the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Posts perform?
The Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Posts is an independent federal authority whose structure is similar to that of the Federal Cartel Office. It “regulates” the telecommunications market and sees to that the Telecommunications Act and regulations ensuing from it are complied with.
The consumer service of the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Posts provides information relating in the first place to the Telecommunications Customer Protection Ordinance. It also deals with other questions in the area of telecommunications and posts free-of-charge.
The Number Management Section of the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Posts is responsible for structuring the national numbering space, setting the conditions for allocating and using numbers, and processing applications for numbers and number blocks. Fundamental elements of frequency and numbering structure have to be published in the Official Gazette of the Regulatory Authority of Telecommunications and Posts, unless they are a threat to national security. The Regulatory Authority is furthermore responsible for number administration, i.e. for allocating numbers to telecommunications networks operators, to organizations offering telecommunications services and to users. The Regulatory Authority does not presently administer the IP number block nor DE-domains, this being the task of private organisations, such as RIPE NCC (Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre) in Amsterdam or DENIC Domain Verwaltungs- und Betriebsgesellschaft eG with headquarters in Frankfurt am Main. The state could theoretically assume these tasks.
Where can you find further information on telecommunications law?
The Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Posts offers a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of various topics in the area of telecommunications law, including data bases with telephone numbers you have to pay for, dialers, etc.
What can we do for you?
We advise and assist you in setting up e-business and e-service platforms. We individually check these special structures of sales from the legal point of view relating to contracts, liability, licensing and other matters. Furthermore, we check and advise telecommunications enterprises on questions concerning licenses from the regulatory body and other authorities involved. It is self-evident that we also draft provider, inter-carrier and final customer contracts.
What do we need to handle your legal questions concerning telecommunications law?
As far as licensing proceedings are concerned, we need an explication of the situation and all possible decisions or conversation notes. In all cases relating to contracts we need the contract as such including General Terms of Trade or at least the topic of the contract with technical guidelines as detailed as possible in order to revise the draft of the contract in the best possible way.