More opposition to ‘connected continent’ proposals

”Oh quelle surprise!” you might say (sarcastic voice). “The BEUC usually lines itself up with left of centre political causes so we’d expect nothing less.”

In fact BEUC makes some good points in a well argued submission and its intervention is another sign that Neelie Kroes is starting to experience some tough and consistent head winds, not just from digital rights activists, but from national regulators, competitive operators and many more.

BEUC is especially worried about the use of a ‘Regulation’ in the Kroes approach which mandates member states to follow exactly the policy dictated from the centre. While in particular cases this can be a good thing, the tendency is for a regulation to “fossilise” because changes (impacting so many consitituencies) become much harder to push through, says BEUC. With telecom and the internet (fast changing as it is) this could be a real problem and make it difficult for the regulatory authorities to move quickly enough to right wrongs in a useful timescale.

BEUC has also sniffed out the smokey logic behind the ‘fragmentation’ issue. It points out that those ‘too fragmented’ mobile markets actually contain four dominant European mobile operators, which between them hold over 60 per cent of the European subscribers, with the two top players holding a combined base of 221 million consumers, larger than the market held by Verizon and AT&T in the US.

If there’s a problem in Europe, it’s one of there not being enough alternative providers and therefore not enough innovation and choice.

So BEUC is less than luke warm. If there is to be change strengthening the hands and financial prospects of large telecom operators, then it wants there to be a radical tightening of consumer protection at the same time, just to keep things in balance. Amongst a slew of demands it wants increased transparency on service performance, easier and no-cost switching and even a mandate so that users can ‘roll over’ their unused credit for up to three months in a row.

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