on the provision of Internet access by a self government unit free of charge or at a charge that is lower than a market price (Article 7 of the mega-law).
Under Article 7 of the Act of 7 May 2010 on supporting the development of telecommunications networks and services (Official Journal No 106, item 675), Internet access may be provided by self government units free of charge or at a charge that is lower than a market price. The above-mentioned article sets out the conditions that must be met in order for self government units to be able to provide such services.
The purpose of the requirements listed in the act with respect to the provision of Internet access by self government units to end users free of charge or at a charge that is lower than a market price is to protect the telecommunications market against marginalisation of private initiatives by public authorities. It must be admitted that the projects of self government units may imply the risk of distorting equal and effective competition in the telecommunications market. The activities undertaken by self government units may force telecommunications undertakings to withdraw from their telecommunications business in certain areas or they may prevent them from market entry.
There is no doubt that the purpose of the Act is on one hand to provide a legal framework for conducting telecommunications business by self government units and on the other to prevent any activities of self government units that would distort equal and effective competition in telecommunications markets. Public intervention should be targeted only at those areas in which competition and market forces are not able to ensure telecommunications. The President of UKE is convinced that any interpretation of the provisions should take into account the purpose for which the Act was introduced.
Therefore, if a self government unit wishes to provide full public Internet access free of charge or at a charge that is lower than a market price to the inhabitants, it should submit a request for approval referred to in Article 7 (1) of the Act to the President of UKE. This, however, applies to a situation in which Internet access provided by a self government unit free of charge or at a lower charge than a market price may be a substitute to the services provided by telecommunications undertakings in terms of availability, geographic coverage and functionality.
The practice shows that hotspots covering public places (such as parks, offices and streets) are a popular way of providing the Internet by self government units. Such services are not fully comparable to those offered by telecommunications undertakings either in terms of functionality or availability and geographic coverage. Hotspot users have Internet access only in places where access points are located. In order to use the Internet they must go to a chosen location. At the same time, limitations imposed by self government units (and also those related to radio transmission) cause that functional substitution is not usually the case. In this case the provision of Internet access by self government units does not need to be preceded by submitting a request for approval to the President of UKE referred to in Article 7 (1) of the Act.
As long as Internet access offered by a self-government unit as a non-substitute to commercial services is not competitive with public services there is no threat to competition in the telecommunications market. The provision of Internet access by self government units may, in the opinion of the President of UKE, encourage interest in the Internet and enhance development of Internet skills and consequently stimulate demand for commercial Internet access in its full version.
In case of any doubts, self government units may refer a question to the President of UKE whether their intended provision of Internet access free of charge or at a charge lower than a market price requires approval of the President of UKE.