Telecommunications policy in Austria and the European Union
The telecommunications industry is playing an increasingly crucial role in economic and social development. The availability of a good and affordable telecommunications infrastructure and, associated with this, a widening range of telecommunications services and applications at internationally competitive prices are decisive corporate location factors. International experience has shown that the telecommunications industry can best meet these demands if it operates in a competitively structured environment. Since the start of the process of liberalising public utilities and creating a competitive operating framework, the Austrian telecommunications market has displayed extremely high degrees of economic dynamism and adaptability.
While operational regulatory tasks such as provider licensing and price regulation are performed by the Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR-GmbH), responsibility for the fulfilment of strategic tasks lies with the Austrian Postal and Telecommunications Authority (OPFB), which is part of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology(BMVIT). Foremost among these tasks are the establishment of the basic political framework and objectives for the telecommunications sector and of fundamental rules governing the activity of the regulatory authority as well as the creation of a legal framework within which the sector can continue to develop. The Ministry is also responsible for representing Austria in international telecommunications organisations.
The policy of the European Union and its Member States in the field of telecommunications is based on a comprehensive set of political objectives which are designed to ensure that liberalisation has a direct beneficial public impact. On the one hand, the key social aim is to give people access to new information technology in order to improve their quality of life and career prospects; on the other hand, in the emerging information society it is essential to protect the rights of consumers and the general public by means of appropriate safeguards, such as measures to protect personal data and guarantee the privacy of telecommunications. If these principles are to be applied without obstructing the further development of the telecommunications market, policies and rules will have to remain open, flexible and adaptable. Accordingly, the future regulatory framework for the domain of communications and the media will be tailored to take full account of the convergence between these areas of activity.