EU Needs Better Rules to Spread Broadband Access

     (CN) – The European Union’s broadband rules don’t do enough to force network owners to provide competitors fair, wholesale access to their systems, according to EU vice-president for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes.
     Kroes’ policy statement outlined a three-prong regulatory strategy she hopes to introduce to the European Parliament by the end of the year to improve broadband access in the 27 member nations of the EU.
     Making sure incumbent network owners didn’t give preferential treatment to their own Internet service providers was essential to keeping down service costs and reaching the EU’s goal that by 2020 half of all broadband subscriptions will be at 100 Mbs or higher, Kroes maintained.
     The second prong of the strategy is price stabilization for access to traditional copper wire networks. Owners of these networks need to be able to continue to recover the costs of their initial investment and use stable cash flow from existing infrastructure to invest in fiber-optic networks.
     Kroes said evidence showed that lowering wholesale access prices to traditional wire networks didn’t result in investment in very fast broadband access.
     Finally, Kroes said EU and national regulators needed to be more flexible in regulation of “next generation” wholesale, moving away from cost-to-consumer price regulation to focus on equal wholesale access.
     Kroes stressed that regulations needed to be minimally invasive and technology neutral to allow land-line, cable and wireless networks to compete on more even footing, preventing regulators from picking technology winners.
     “‘Technology neutrality’ is just another way of saying that we cannot predict with any certainty what the best technological solutions will be, nor how they will compete and interact. Incremental solutions may help to address weak demand in the short term – for example, new technology combining fiber and copper, or upgrading TV cable, can be very cost-effective in delivering higher download capacity,” Kroes said.After all the talk of regulation, Kroes stressed the market friendly nature of her strategy. “I want this news to send a strong positive signal to the market today – a signal that the telecoms sector has a strong and stable future.”

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