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EU to set guidelines for fibre broadband investment

13 июля 2012

The European Union's technology chief said Thursday she intends to set clear and lasting rules that will ensure financial returns on broadband infrastructure investment and so encourage the bloc's telecommunications companies to build high-speed fiber networks.

"I want all industry players to receive the signal loud and clear--that they can invest profitably in the future connectivity of Europe, and compete on the basis of their investment," EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes told reporters.

Ms. Kroes will present proposals on the matter to her fellow commissioners in the autumn.

Investment in high speed fiber in the EU has lagged other parts of the world, and Ms. Kroes has been investigating since October what it would take for companies to take the plunge and make the heavy upfront investment needed for fiber networks. Telecom companies have been reluctant to invest without knowing they can recoup the cost.

Ms. Kroes said she will produce a package of guidelines to be implemented by national regulators that will apply at least until 2020, and which will focus on three areas. Firstly, providing equivalent, nondiscriminatory access for all operators; secondly, a recommendation on wholesale access costs, and thirdly principles for when regulators can intervene.

Former state monopolies such as Deutsche Telekom AG and Telecom Italia SpA allow rival operators to use their networks to sell their own brands of Internet, TV and telephone services, but the price they charge for this has been a key issue in the investment debate.

Ms. Kroes said she is planning to look at these prices separately and make recommendations to ensure consistency, but added that price of about EUR9 a month per user seemed about right.

ETNO, the trade association representing the incumbent operators, said it "fully supports" the commission's view on pricing.

"ETNO considers that today's statement will contribute to end a long period of uncertainty in the sector," Luigi Gambardella, Chairman of the ETNO board, said."Investors need a stable regulatory framework and today's announcements by VP Kroes is an important step towards building investor trust."

The new package of rules she is planning will ensure the networks owned by the former monopolies remain open to new competitors at a price that allows these latter to offer attractive packages to consumers, Kroes said.

But ECTA, a trade association representing more than 100 newer telecoms operators, said the measures will be a blow to genuine competition in the telecoms market, saying the rules are a "U-turn" from the commission's previous decisions.

"We deeply regret the approach that Mrs Kroes is suggesting on price methodologies," ECTA's chairman Tom Ruhan said."As a result of this approach incumbents will not only be allowed to regain full monopolies on future networks, they will also be allowed to continue overcharging consumers and starving competitors on existing networks."

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, wants broadband connections of 30 megabits a second to be available to all 500 million EU residents by 2020. It expects the Internet economy to grow to EUR800 billion, or 5.8% of Europe's gross domestic product, by 2014.

Kroes said the real "heavy lifting" on broadband investment must be done by the telecom companies themselves--who in turn need to know they'll get a return on their investment.

Outside of telecoms companies, Europe's cable industry--which provides fast broadband to consumers homes in many areas--also welcomed the clarity of longer-term rules.

"Commissioner Kroes took a reassuring step today by suggesting that Europe can expect durable regulatory guidance for all of the investors in next generation infrastructure," Manuel Kohnstamm, President of the Cable Europe trade association, said."She has given a positive signal of confidence to those in the digital communications market engaged in the long-term investment in tomorrow's broadband infrastructure."

The commission has also made available EUR7 billion, primarily through equity, debt, or guarantees, for broadband networks, earmarked particularly for areas less attractive to the market, like rural and isolated regions.

"Anything that generates more of a critical mass of incentive for a fiber investment is a good thing," she said about the funding.


Источник: Total Telecom

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