Britain objects to EU power grab over spectrum auctions

Reuters reports that Britain has objected to rules from the European Commission giving them the authority to block what they perceive as overly expensive auctions of mobile spectrum. A note from the British government sent to EU leaders raises a series of objections to the measures which were unveiled only a few weeks ago.

EU leaders are to meet in Brussels on October 24 to discuss the proposals. The new law has not been totally unanticipated, as the European Commission has expressed hostility to some spectrum auctions in the past. EU commissioner for telecoms, Neelie Kroes who is driving forward the reform was critical of the recent auction in the Netherlands of £3.18bn.

Writing in her blog:

Was nothing learned from previous auctions ... when the share price of KPN dropped substantially?

Spectrum sales have not been an insignificant source of revenue for the Britain. Britain made £2.3bn in spectrum auctions this year as compared to £22.5bn last year. The British government is concerned that in times when the government is need of revenue, the EU will have the power to prevent much needed funds from being raised by vetoing spectrum sales. EU regulators BEREC have also raised concerns over the plans to alter the current system where national regulators set the minimum price for a spectrum sale and then companies compete in the bidding process.

In the same note Britain also objected to the proposals to end roaming-charges levied on on customers when travelling abroad at least until regulation to lower charges has taken full effect. The note states:

Progress towards abolishing roaming charges should take place within the existing regulatory framework.

British objections could lead to the plans being scrapped as all 28 EU governments and the EU parliament are needed to pass the law.