The Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, has published a letter, addressed to the President of the Lower House of Parliament (Tweede Kamer), in which the announces his intention to develop policy with regard to the quality of public electronic communications networks and services. 

This letter is particularly relevant for the development of VoIP, but also has an important sub-theme, which is a long-running debate in The Netherlands concerning the level of interconnection charges, and impact of the engineering choices made in the past, and to be made in the future, by the incumbent fixed operator KPN, on the interconnection charges.

The Minister's letter refers to a study commissioned in the last quarter of 2003, and contains comments on the results of the study, as well as the Minister's own conclusions.

The study concluded that, currently, the quality of KPN’s service is sufficient to meet the requirements arising out of the universal service obligation. The network quality is also considered adequate, and the study specifically notes that it has not found the KPN network to be over-engineered.

The study suggests that quality may drop temporarily if KPN transfers its service from the circuit-switched network to a packet-switched network, but comes out against too rigid an imposition of quality requirements, which could hamper the development of new services (such as Voice over IP).

For the future, the Minister proposes to systematically measure QoS, and to use the results of the 2003 study as a benchmark.

The Ministry and OPTA (the Dutch regulatory authority) will agree on the monitoring measures to be taken and on how to make this monitoring as efficient as possible. Minister Brinkhorst's letter announces that if the monitored parameters show a significant (negative) evolution over time, an evaluation will occur on whether additional obligations over and above mere monitoring should be imposed.

The Minister also confirms that he will issue a 'Beleidsregel' (policy measure) with regard to quality of service and the impact thereof on KPN’s tariffs.

For a discussion of this development, please contact Alexa Veller.