Reding bats for independent European regulator

EU telecom chief Viviane Reding called for a single European regulator, saying this would help all 25 nations toe the same line as they open up telecommunications markets, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said many EU countries have been slow to make changes that would see former state monopolies cede ground to new Internet and telephone rivals, causing wide differences across the continent with the Dutch and Danes far more likely to have broadband access than the Irish or Greeks.

Reding was quoted as saying that the current complicated legal framework has forced the European Commission to play a time-consuming game of 'ping pong' with national regulators when it spots problems.

'For me it is clear that the most effective and least bureaucratic way "&brkbar; would be to replace the present game "&brkbar; by an independent European telecom authority that would work together with national regulators in a system similar to the European System of Central Banks,' she was quoted as saying.

When regulators don't make the changes that encourage competition, customers are hurt by poor choice and high-price Internet access, she warned.

However, she did not favor forcing telecom companies to sell off parts of their business to answer antitrust concerns, saying she would be satisfied with glass walls that separate wholesale and retail units.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has repeatedly expressed her view that such a system was not working in a similar 'network' industry, such as energy, where companies also control the supply, distribution and sale of a product, the report said.