EC warns regulators over wholesale fees

The European Commission will take action against national regulators that allow unfair wholesale broadband price rises, the Digital Agenda commissioner warned yesterday.
Neelie Kroes told members of the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA) the Commission will investigate member states that refuse to adhere to forthcoming guidelines regarding rate rises, using a new law that comes into force next year.
The Commissioner is concerned about the impact on consumers if national regulators blindly accept requests for increases by incumbents, after Italy’s AGCOM approved a request from Telecom Italia to up the fee by 24% last month, the New York Times reported.
Kroes said the EC would issue guidance to regulators covering acceptable levels for wholesale price increases, and said her warning is “not abstract,” the newspaper said.
ECTA director Ilsa Godlovitch said the guidance would help regulators “understand what the actual costs are,” rather than accepting figures provided by incumbent operators.
“It’s time for a reality check on regulated prices,” Godlovitch said, adding that national regulators “should be checking carefully if investments in fiber are as risky as incumbents claim.”
Agcom has subsequently amended its agreement with Telecom Italia, after the EC intervened following complaints from Vodafone and FastWeb.
It will now restrict the increases to €9.02 per month in 2011 and to €9.28 per month in 2012, rather than the respective €9.14 and €9.48 rises originally proposed.