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EC to level Europe’s telecoms playing field

Euro flag

via Flickr © MPD01605 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Reuters says it’s seen a document that indicates that the European Commission is going to tilt the playing field in favour of European telcos as part of a general overhaul of the Europe’s telecom rules next year.

According to Reuters the EC feels a hand on the tiller is necessary to attenuate increased competition in telecoms from cable operators and so-called ‘OTT players’ like WhatsApp and Skype.

In fact it seems to have yielded to the old “unfairness” cry from the likes of Europe’s telco club, ETNO, which has long called for parity of treatment with “OTTs” without ever explaining exactly where the current unfairness lies.  

This document, according to Reuters, says the European Commission is minded to rethink all the rules with a view to creating the fabled single digital market, for once and for all.

The plan is expected to be outlined by the Commission on May 6th, but the rule change is planned for next year, plenty of time for the necessary arguments to take place.

There is more talk of incumbent operators not having enough incentive to build out faster, fibre-supported  networks, but that doesn’t appear to have deflected Orange (France’s incumbent operator) which has just announced a “100 per cent” fibre to the home roll-out in nine  French cities by the end of 2016. Similarly BT is about to commence ultra-fast broadband over copper trials in the UK with a view to offering even faster DSL by the end of the decade.

Mention is being made of  Skype, for instance, being ‘forced’ to provide emergency call access as  a market-leveler since such a requirement might pile new costs onto Skype and other Voice over IP players. But preventing emergency calls from VoIP clients was, if memory serves, a device to stop the threat that IP voice might become the main household phone (what would you do in an emergency? it was asked).  

If Skype and other services were forced to comply with regulations (presumably on things like called number ID so the emergency centre would know where a call was coming from) then they might reasonably argue that current prohibitions on so-called ‘naked DSL’ (unbundled DSL without telephony on the line) be lifted as well.

The newish European Commission, now nearly 6 months into its tenure, has made it known that superfast broadband investment is a priority - this sounds like one strand of a ‘quid pro quo’ that might speed those political objectives.

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