Telcos call for EU-wide review of regulations

Telecommunications operators have called upon the European Commission to implement an EU-wide review of the way it regulates the industry.

Telcos are concerned that the current rules will not ensure sufficient returns on their investments and have opened the industry up to start-up companies to grab a share of markets. They are particularly worried about revenues from content delivered and sold over their networks.

However Viviane Reding, commissioner for information, society and media, told the European Parliament that there will be no rethink in the immediate future. However next year the Commission will begin to look at what changes need to be made after 2010 to accommodate technological advances.

The Commission is reluctant to make changes while some of the 25 EU member states have yet to properly implement existing regulations. As a result of this a number of infringement cases are going through the courts.

Michael Bartholomew, director of the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association said that unless changes are made now, it will be too late.

‘The overall regulatory environment must be reviewed to be made forward-looking and to anticipate changes, in order to encourage the necessary investments in tomorrow’s networks,’ her said. ‘Given the dynamism and the rapid pace of change in the sector, by the time the new regulation will be in place, tomorrow’s trends will already be today’s reality.’

He gave an example of Belgium’s Belgacom, which is about to launch an IP-based TV service.

‘The fear is they will have to open up this network to competition,’ Bartholomew said.

However, Reding said that concerns over returns on investment are not an excuse to ‘block the market’ and said that content creators have their own investments to protect.

‘I am not going to let you kill content,’ she told telco bosses. ‘If infrastructure wants to sell goods and services, they need content to be sexy and these people have invested as well.’

Not all telcos are unhappy with her position.

‘She’s looking at measures to make sure that in markets where not enough competition is present, more competition will come in,’ Ad Scheeepbouwer, CEO of The Netherlands’ KPN told Reuters. ‘But I don’t have to worry that much about Holland because there is enough there. There is not a market where there is more competition.’

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