New EU guidelines stifle competition - lobby group

The European Commission’s draft policy guidelines on fiber-optic deployment through Europe has cone under fire from pro-competition lobby group, European Competitive Telecommunications Association, ECTA.

ECTA claims the new proposals, released on Friday, would allow dominant carriers and media companies to escape regulation, limiting choice in TV and broadband services.

The Commission’s proposed guidelines ‘Recommendation on Next Generation Access' outline the way national authorities should regulate high-speed networks for cross platform television, Internet and telephony services.

One of the key recommendations put forward is that dominant companies may be allowed to form joint ventures that would be exempt from European Union competition rules, in the aid of boosting investment in rural areas.

ECTA claims that the proposals will lead to a restriction in consumer choice and may lead to collusive practices. Chairman of ECTA, Innocenzo Genna, said, “we are surprised and disappointed that the European Commission, which is meant to be the guardian of competition, appears to have compromised its strong stand against regulatory holidays in the telecoms sector and appears to be condoning collusion.”

Genna warned that the Commission needed to stand firm against powerful incumbents such as Deutsche Telekom who have lobbied the Commission extensively to relax EU regulation.

“Competitors across Europe stand to lose billions in investments and could be forced to out of the market if the rules for next generation access do not support competition. Effective functional separation of dominant firms to ensure they treat their rivals on an equal basis is the only scenario in which regulators should be permitted to consider relaxing price requirements,” Genna added.