Communications Regulation Background
Communications in Ireland has been radically affected by European Union liberalisation rules. Typically communications had been run by State monopolies in the EU. The EU liberalised the markets for electronic communications in 1998.
The EU legislation provided for universal service for base telephony and narrowband services. EU deregulation aimed at increasing the role of competition in the telecommunications sector.
Formerly post and telephone services were controlled by the Department of Post and Telegraphs directly. In 1984 Bord Telecom Eireann and An Post were established as State-controlled companies. In 1996 provision was made for private investment in Telecom Eireann.
Since the 1990s government policy has been to open up electric communication networks to competition. In 1996 the Office of Director of Telecommunications Regulation was established.
In 1996 telecommunications was fully liberalised. Telecommunications (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1996 allowed private investment in Telecom Eireann.
The ODTR later became the Commission for Communications Regulation (COMREG). COMREG shares competition powers in the communications sector with the Competition Authority. COMREG also regulates the postal sector.
The Communications Regulation Act 2002 established ComReg and increased enforcement power. Powers are further increased by the 2007 Act.
ComReg is responsible for domestic and European regulation. It is the national regulatory authority and is also the competent authority under EU legislation. It regulates broadcasting, post and telecommunications.
COMREG has between one and three members, each a commissioner. COMREG is independent in its functions. Many of the former Government Communications department functions were transferred to COMREG.
OMREG operates under wide European Union regulations. The government may issue directions to COMREG. The Department of Communications may set policy objectives which COMREG must consider when using its powers under European regulations.
COMREG’s objectives include the promotion of the development of the internal market under the EU framework, use of radio frequency spectrum, promotion of the postal service, ensuring users have maximum benefits in terms of choice, price and quality, ensuring no distortion or restriction of competition, encouraging efficient use of infrastructure and innovation.
The system of regulation embraces telecoms, media and information technology and service transmission networks under a single regulatory framework. Entities providing an electronic communication network, transmission system or other means including satellite networks are covered.
COMREG is responsible for compliance and ensuring undertakings comply with their obligations, managing radio frequency spectrum, ensuring compliance with the marketing and service of radio equipment, certain data collection and privacy rules, oversight of the .ie Domain Registry.
There is a code of practice in relation to a body offering premium rate services, monitored by COMREG.
- manages the radio frequency spectrum, and national numbering resource
- monitors quality and efficiency in certain areas
- carries out investigations into matters relating to the supply and access to electronic communications services, networks, and facility.
- ensures user including disabled user get maximum benefit in terms of choice, price and quality ensures efficient investment in infrastructure,
- ensures effective management of radio frequencies and numbering resources. T
For the purpose of promoting a competitive market and for statistics, it may compile and disseminate information relating to electronic communication services.
It may ensure compliance in relation to the marketing of communications equipment and radio equipment
COMREG may impose levies. Annual levies are payable by industry Generally it is about .2% of turnover unless turnover is less than €500,000. An annual levy is imposed on broadcasting transmission networks. An Post makes a contribution towards the levy.
Below €1 million and €20 million turnover respectively the levy is a flat fee. There are special contributions applicable to postal undertakings with a turnover of more than €1.5 million
The calculation is made of the levy on the universal service provider An post, based on turnover for the universal service.