The right to communicate: redefining universal service obligations in postal and electronic communication markets

18/03/2015 - 14:15 to 18:30
Fondation Universitaire, Rue d'Egmont 11, 1000 Brussels

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” 

John Maynard Keynes

One of the key Recommendations of the CERRE Dossier for the Incoming Commission published in June 2014 was that “The European Commission should initiate a discussion on whether USO is still meaningful in mail alone, as there are alternative technologies that allow communications to benefit also more remote areas. The Commission should therefore consider a comprehensive redefinition of the USO concept, towards a more general “right to communicate”. This was based on the assessment that postal services are affected today by intermodal competition for communication services. In 2015, CERRE is taking that idea forward by initiating a debate on how a cross-sector “right to communicate” could look like, and what its impact might be.

At the heart of CERRE’s idea lies the observation that the way people communicate has changed dramatically in the past few years, following unprecedented technological progress and changing personal preferences and habits. In addition, market liberalisations have delivered growing competitive provision of all communication services. It follows that rules to guarantee a universal service for all consumers and citizens that were written some time ago need to be reconsidered and adapted. Some of these observations stem from the findings of a previous work by CERRE on Public service obligations and competition.     

Building on CERRE's previous work, this CERRE Executive Seminar will bring a novel contribution to the debate on the evolution of the Universal Service in postal and electronic communications services based on an innovative approach spanning different network industries in a way that has not been done so far.    

This CERRE Executive Seminar, and the accompanying debate that will ensue, represent a stepping stone on CERRE’s path to define a new, cross-sector right to communicate.

During the seminar, participants will debate, among others, the following key issues:

  • what changes have taken place and what they mean for consumers' and citizens' communication needs;
  • how to adapt the current rules to ensure that the right to communicate of every EU citizen is met in the most efficient way for society, while keeping in mind the need for regulatory stability;
  • what is the scope of universal service that should be defined at the EU level, and what margin which should be left to the Member States to reflect their political preferences and their market evolution;
  • which means of provision (designation, compensation and financing) are available to deliver the universal service obligation in the least cost manner for society. 




Welcome and introduction by the co-Chairs

Professor Bruno Liebhaberg

Director General,



Professor Michael Crew

Center for Research in Regulated Industries,
Rutgers Business School



Keynote introduction

Presentation by:

Professor Alexandre de Streel

Research Fellow, CERRE
Professor, Universities of Namur and Louvain



Carla Pace

Senior Analyst,
Cullen International



Issues to be addressed

  • Over the last 15 years, how have USO policies changed on the ground?

  • How to update USOs in light of technological progress and evolving consumers needs?

  • How to define USO in a technologically neutral way?


Coffee break


From USOs in postal and electronic communications to a "right to communicate"
  Moderator: Professor Bruno Liebhaberg


Angelo Cardani




Axel Desmedt

Member of the Council,



Alex Dieke

Head of Department Postal Services, Logistics and Transport,
WIK Consult



Lieve Elias

Regulatory Manager, 



Werner Stengg

Head of Public Interest Services Unit,
DG Grow, European Commission


Dirk Tirez

Chief Legal Officer,




Issues to be addressed


Key insights from the discussions

Professor Martin Peitz

Joint Academic Director, CERRE
Professor, University of Mannheim


Conclusions and next steps

Professor Michael Crew

Center for Research in Regulated Industries,
Rutgers Business School



Professor Bruno Liebhaberg

Director General,


Cocktail reception




The Discussion Paper provides some background information to the topic.

Wednesday 18 March 2015, 14.15-18.30,
Fondation Universitaire, Rue d'Egmont 11, 1000 Brussels

CERRE members and nominated guests receive priority when registering. All other registrations are provisional until confirmed by email by CERRE. If you have any questions about your registration, or do not receive a confirmation email, please contact