My way or the highway: Neelie Kroes goes retro

Like all such efforts (remember the Telecoms Package about 3 years back?) the Telecoms Regulation is being flagged as a make or break moment for European telecoms. The train is leaving the station etc..., not to move will see Europe fall further behind…, and so on. And Kroes has pulled together her own little film, created by film director/producer David Putnam, to confuse the issues, or at the very least reduce them down. They should have called it My way or the Highway… view it here.

Apparently Kroes wanted to screen it to the parliamentarians to push her case, but this was disallowed as it’s against the usual proceedure (I don’t blame them - where would it end?).

Essentially Kroes wants her legacy to be ‘the politician who finally kicked a single market in telecoms into place’ and she’s convinced that a single market should involve a less ‘fragmented’ provider landscape - or at least that’s what she’s been told. So as she herself says in today’s speech to the European Competitive Telecommunication Association (ECTA) she sees her task as, “Focusing on the barriers that stop the market from developing right, now. Giving that market a push in the right direction, now.”

Surely a free and open market doesn’t have a ‘right’ direction. Isn’t that its value? Doesn’t it consists of lots of players, all working with different ideas, different directions, and through that and judicious regulation to keep them in line, we get surprising and innovative business models and live happily ever after. Oh well.

Instead Kroes’ approach seems to be to tilt the market in favour of the big, existing players who can consolidate the fragmentation and form a European oligarchy to complete the single market.

And what of ‘competition’ and competitive operators? Also in her speech Kroes says, “Challenger and alternative operators have long been valuable guarantors of competition. I don't intend to change that.” I think that’s quite revealing. In other words, new business models will be allowed so they can keep traditional operators on their toes, but not to replace them. If I was a competitive or challenger operator this would hardly fill me with joy, but at least I’d know my place.

It’s going to be an interesting fight.

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