The European Parliament has endorsed new telecom rules that would give phone and Internet users more rights and allow them to appeal to national courts if they are cut off for illegal file-sharing.
The rules endorsed Tuesday are part of a broad telecommunications package that also aims to boost competition for Internet and phone services. As a last resort, telecom companies could be required to separate their infrastructure and services businesses, giving other companies a shot at providing rival services on the same networks.
A new EU-wide telecoms authority also would be set up to ensure fair competition.
The EU's 27 nations must now implement the law in their national legislation by June 2011.
For consumers, the most visible part of the law are the new rights they would get to switch cell phone or fixed line operators within one working day and to challenge disconnections, even if they are illegally sharing copyright-protected movies or music.
A service provider would have to inform users before cutting off access because of a copyright violation, and those users would be able to appeal to a national court.
Internet users still won't have an automatic right to Internet access — as some EU lawmakers had originally intended. The European Parliament dropped that guarantee because of concerns it could hinder French and British efforts to cut off Internet access to persistent file sharers.