Digital Agenda: public consultations on access to telecoms networks

The European Commission has launched two public consultations related to access for alternative operators to the fixed telephone and broadband networks of established operators. The consultations are part of Commission efforts to boost the Single Market for telecoms services by ensuring consistent and coherent approaches to regulating telephone and broadband networks in all Member States.

The first consultation concerns non-discriminatory access for alternative operators to the infrastructure and services of dominant telecom operators. The second concerns the way national regulators calculate prices that operators have to pay for this wholesale access (cost-orientation remedies). The results will help the Commission to draft Recommendations for a consistent, investment-friendly application of non-discrimination and price control remedies.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda said “We need regulatory consistency in all Member States to ensure a level playing field for telecoms across the whole EU, in which competition and investment can thrive. This will reassure markets that putting money into fibre networks is a safe and profitable investment.”

Regulatory consistency is crucial to ensuring that telecoms operators have predictability and regulatory clarity, particularly when considering the large scale investments needed to roll-out ultra-fast optical fibre-based networks (see MEMO/10/424). These “next generation” networks are essential to meet the Digital Agenda for Europe goal of giving every European access to fast and ultra-fast broadband by 2020 (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200). Consistency also helps telecoms operators to be active in several Member States. The consultation on wholesale pricing examines in particular how the relationship between copper and fibre access prices can affect the incentives to invest in new fibre-based networks.

The Commission is looking into these topics because national telecoms regulators are currently taking different approaches when they choose to regulate in these fields.

When applied by national telecoms regulators, the Commission’s guidance will ensure that operators will be able to buy broadband access products, such as unbundled local loops or “Bitstream”, in a similar way across the EU. This will enable operators, ultimately, to offer their own competitive retail services to consumers on equivalent conditions.

Both consultations are open to telecoms operators, consumer organisations, national regulators, Member States and other interested parties until 28 November 2011.

Brussels, 3rd October 2011

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