Mobile phones, landlines, broadband and other digital services all have to be regulated across the 28 states of the European Union. In collaboration with Nina Boeger, (of the University of Bristol) Middlesex University's Dr Joseph Corkin looked at how regulatory networks are formed and reformed across all those nation states in a study, Making Europe in their Image, that was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Dr Corkin took telecoms as a case study and examined archives and interviewed key figures in the European Commission, European Parliament, national regulators, ministries and EU negotiators. Academic publications followed and Dr Corkin was then approached by the professional services firm PwC and selected by the European Commission as one of a panel of three academic experts to evaluate how well the new institution, The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), was performing.
The resultant report, Study on the Evaluation of BEREC and the BEREC Office, is now the primary point of reference in discussions, consultations and negotiations between the Commission, the European Parliament and national governments, in anticipation of another round of reforms.
"Under our guidance, PwC surveyed all national regulators in Europe and we used this and our own research to write a report for the European Commission, offering detailed recommendations for far-reaching reform of the working methods of BEREC. This included timetabling, forward-planning, procedural consistency, better coordination with the European Commission, more effective monitoring procedures, improved selection of experts review panels etc," Dr Corkin explains. "Many of these recommendations are now being implemented, thus changing how the institutions responsible for reviewing the regulation of telecoms markets right across Europe operate."
When the Commission published the report, Vice-President Neelie Kroes described it as 'comprehensive and balanced... a valuable input into our forthcoming reflections on how to deepen the internal market in this area'.
The Commission's Head of Unit, Vesa Terävä, described Dr Corkin's section of the report as 'sound and thorough' and 'a very useful tool for assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of the BEREC platform … and has played an important role in our thinking process'.
The Head of International Policy at UK Regulator Ofcom said the report would "come to be seen as a very important contribution to the (ongoing) debate over the appropriate institutional arrangements in Europe, in the telecoms sector".
Dr Corkin organised a workshop jointly with the University of Bristol and hosted by the Institute for Government, which brought together senior telecoms policy-makers from the European Parliament, the Commission and national regulators, as well as industry figures and academic experts.
Dr Corkin says: "The European Parliament's formal response to our report describes it as "relevant and balanced" and backs our key recommendations. It thus has the endorsement of two of the three key institutions in the EU and we now await the response of the Council to see how they expect reforms to proceed in the coming two to three years."