On May 23, 2017, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the text of a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) that solicits public comment on what FCC Chairman Ajit Pai calls a plan for “Restoring Internet Freedom.” The NPRM contemplates reversing the 2015 FCC Open Internet Order that classified both fixed and mobile broadband internet access services as telecommunications services and subjected them to some of the common carrier regulations found in Title II of the Communications Act. The 2015 Order also adopted no-blocking, no-throttling, and no-paid-prioritization rules, as well as a general internet conduct standard.
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On 10 May 2017, the European Commission published its mid-term review of the implementation of Europe’s Digital Single Market strategy. Launched in 2015, the ambitious strategy covered 16 actions under the three pillars: (1) improving access to digital goods and services for consumers and businesses across Europe; (2) creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; and (3) maximising the growth potential of the digital economy. Despite a lot of activity, the Commission was only able to highlight one actual delivered improvement in its review – the abolition of retail roaming charges – although it looks forward to the imminent implementation of cross-border content portability in early 2018 and the expected approval of a proposal to address unjustified geo-blocking.

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On 27 April 2017, the UK’s new Digital Economy Act came into force. Following the calling of a snap General Election for 8 June, it was brought into force during the final parliamentary wash-up. Whilst some proposals were withdrawn or watered down, a number of important provisions, notably reform of the UK’s electronic communications code which governs the relationship between telecoms operators and landowners, were brought into force without significant amendment.

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In January 2017, the European Commission published the proposed text of a new draft e-Privacy Regulation (ePR) as part of its ongoing drive to advance one of its key initiatives, the Digital Single Market.

Whilst the impending introduction of the GDPR has been dominating headlines for the past months, the ePR has somewhat gone under the radar. We set out the key points to look out for with regard to the ePR and who it is likely to apply to.


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On 8 March 2017, Mr Justice Arnold sitting in the English High Court granted in favour of The Football Association Premier League Limited (“FAPL”) the country’s first “live” blocking order, requiring internet service providers (“ISPs”) to block, in real-time, servers hosting unauthorised live streams of Premier League football matches. The landscape of technology used by infringers has evolved significantly in recent times. Infringers now often make content available directly to enabled devices rather than via a specific website. This evolution from previous forms of blocking order demonstrates how the English courts are prepared to evolve their thinking in order to track advances in the ways that people seek to infringe IP rights, and is a positive sign for rightsholders.

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On 30 March 2017, Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, published its annual plan for financial year 2017/18. It also published its budget and work programme for the year. The changes identified by Ofcom in relation to its responsibilities, markets and technology and the legislative framework under which it operates provide a great snapshot of current industry trends and issues.

Taking these in turn:


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On 30 March 2017, the UK’s Department for exiting the European Union published a white paper outlining its proposals for a Great Repeal Bill (GRB). Whilst superficially, this appears to bring clarity to the legal position after Brexit, on closer examination the GRB proposal over-simplifies the position and glosses over the very significant legislative (and consequential business) problems that will arise from the UK’s departure from the EU in the absence of a comprehensive and detailed free trade agreement between the UK and EU to enable many of the existing business arrangements to continue. Whilst much of the press commentary has focused on the impact of Brexit on the financial services sector, the same issue, disruption of existing business models as a result of leaving the single market, arises in almost every other sector of the economy, and certainly in the telecoms, media and technology sectors.

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