European Commission says no to regulatory holidays

By Stuart Sumner
09 Mar 2012 View Comments
Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes

Vice president of the European Commission (EC) for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes has rejected calls for telecoms operators to be granted regulatory holidays.

Speaking to the European Cable Communications Association in Brussels yesterday, Kroes explained that she has heard arguments that decreased regulation will help investment in broadband services across Europe.

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"They claim we should grant operators a regulatory holiday... They want a holiday from the stress of innovating in a competitive market and a return to an 'idyllic' business environment sheltered from real competition," she said.

She said she does not believe this is the right way forwards, claiming that competition has resulted in reduced costs and improved services for businesses and consumers throughout Europe.

Kroes added that she wants to see more competition, with new services coming into the market, rather than simply rebranded packages of other firms' services.

"It's not enough to let different retailers rebrand and resell wholesale products that are all, fundamentally, the same," she said.

"Rather, we should open up markets to the maximum extent possible, stimulate competition in every link of the chain, and deliver the maximum possible consumer choice and the maximum possible market opportunity."

She also tackled the argument that competition may reduce the return on investment from new infrastructure as it is difficult to encourage users to pay a premium for improved services – an argument often used by some operators.

"The people who argue against this pro-competitive approach claim it would take away the incentives to invest in next generation networks," said Kroes.

"On the contrary: if such networks are open to competition and innovation, consumers will be willing to pay a fair price for services that respond better to their evolving needs.

"That increased demand for enhanced services is essential to sustain investment in tomorrow's networks."

She concluded that the answer will lie in a mix of technologies. This will help to meet the EC's goal of 30Mbit/s broadband access for every European by 2020.

"We will meet those targets with a gradual approach based on a mix of technologies. Whether it's fibre to the home, fibre to the cabinet, next-generation mobile solutions, or upgraded cable: they all have their part to play," she concluded.

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