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IP/09/909

Brussels, 12 June 2009

Broadband : Commission consults on regulatory strategy to promote very high speed Internet

T he European Commission has launched a public consultation on its revised proposals for the regulation of Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband networks, in the form of a draft Commission Recommendation. A previous public consultation held during the last quarter of 2008 confirmed general support for the objective of the Commission to achieve a common regulatory framework for NGA in order to foster timely investment in very high speed networks while ensuring that the competitive structure of the market is maintained. In the light of comments from stakeholders, the revised draft Recommendation includes mechanisms to allocate the investment risk between investors and operators seeking access to NGA networks. The draft Recommendation forms part of the European Broadband Strategy that the March European Council invited the Commission to develop by the end of 2009. The public consultation will be open until 24 July 2009. The Commission plans to adopt the Recommendation, taking account of comments received, before the end of 2009.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes stated: " For consumers and businesses to be able to reap the benefits of competitive very high speed broadband services, we need a common pan-European regulatory approach to NGA broadband networks. This consultation will help to ensure that the Commission Recommendation gives the necessary legal certainty to encourage large scale investment in new fibre infrastructure for very fast broadband internet services while safeguarding effective access to NGA networks for competitors."

EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said: "High speed fibre networks are the new generation of broadband infrastructures in Europe. In order to give citizens and businesses across Europe access to fast broadband Internet, very large sums of private and also public money will need to be injected in the coming years. Investors therefore need to know the rules of the game. The aim of the planned Commission Recommendation on next generation access is to provide legal certainty for all players by providing national regulators across Europe with clear guidance on the regulatory approach to be taken. I call on all stakeholders to contribute actively to the new public consultation in order to help us achieve the right balance between effective competition in the broadband market and giving the right incentives for sustainable investment in Europe's high speed networks."

The revised draft Recommendation would include mechanisms to allocate investment risk between investors and access seekers. In particular, to foster market-driven investment outside densely populated areas, the draft Recommendation defines conditions under which co-investment schemes could be deemed pro-competitive. Under the draft Recommendation, deployment by the dominant operator of multiple fibres could justify less stringent regulatory obligations. The competitive advantage of having multiple fibres in the ground is that it allows immediate and undistorted infrastructure competition.

The revised draft Recommendation endeavours to develop a pan-EU common regulatory approach, which telecoms regulators would adapt to national market conditions. The approach proposed by the Commission aims at driving infrastructure-based competition where it is possible and efficient, while ensuring a seamless migration from copper to fibre-based networks.

The Commission organised a first public consultation on a draft Recommendation on the regulated access to Next Generation Access Networks in 2008 (see IP/08/1370 ). The consultation confirmed the need to provide guidance on how the current regulatory framework should apply to NGA investment, in order to avoid Single Market distortions and create legal certainty for stakeholders. It also confirmed general support for the proposed balance between investment incentives and the protection of broadband competition. However, there were also calls to consider alternative mechanisms to diversify the specific risk of NGA investment as a way to foster investment in fibre.

The March 2009 European Council called for cooperation between investors and operators to be authorised so as to diversify the risk of investment in NGA, whilst ensuring that the competitive structure of the market and the principle of non-discrimination are maintained.

Background

Broadband access is currently regulated by national telecoms regulators. The objective of the Commission's Recommendation will be to foster the application of consistent access remedies on dominant NGA operators.

See also MEMO/09/274 .

The Commission's public consultation document can be found at:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/library/public_consult/index_en.htm

Input to the Commission's public consultation can be sent to:

infso-B1ext@ec.europa.eu


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