(CN) - After intense negotiations, European Union lawmakers and the bloc's government agreed to a telecommunications reform package that paves the way for increased competition and consumer rights, an open Internet and high-speed Internet across Europe.
The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers reached an agreement late Wednesday night on the EU Telecoms Reform. The reform package had been stalled due to concerns that it would not adequately protect the rights of Internet users.
"This Internet freedom provision is unprecedented across the globe and a strong signal that the EU takes fundamental rights very seriously, in particular when it comes to the Information Society," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding.
"The reform will substantially enhance consumer rights and consumer choice in Europe's telecoms markets, and add new guarantees to ensure the openness and neutrality of the Internet," she added. "It will boost competition and investment in telecoms markets, and open up airwaves for new mobile services, allowing Internet broadband for all Europeans."
The agreement would create a supervisory body to ensure the EU's telecommunications rules are applied fairly across all 27 nations and don't shield any operators from competition.
The new rules make it more difficult for member states to cut off Internet access to subscribers suspected of illegal downloads and other breaches. "The new Internet freedom provision represents a great victory for the rights and freedoms of European citizens," Reding said.
Member states must respect the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy under the reform package.
The reforms would also boost competition among broadband service providers and would require greater transparency in subscriber contracts.
The deal clinched late Wednesday gives the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers another eight weeks to pass the final version.
EU leaders aim to establish the European Body of Telecoms Regulators by spring, and to see the reform package become national law in the 27 member states by May 2011.