Brussels, 27 August 2012
Digital Agenda - Commission calls on Polish telecoms regulator to improve access to fibre network
The European Commission has called on the Polish telecoms regulator (UKE) to amend or withdraw its proposal to give alternative operators only limited access to Telekomunikacja Polska's (TP) fibre networks. In the Commission's view, UKE's decision could have a negative effect on competition and the future development of fibre networks, and thus limit offers available to consumers and businesses. This is the second time that the Commission has issued a recommendation under Article 7a of the Telecoms Directive (MEMO/11/321).
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: "Regulators throughout Europe, including Poland, must find the right balance between giving operators the incentive to invest in very fast internet and safeguarding competition. As a precondition for pricing flexibility, UKE should secure equivalent access for all operators to TP's network, so that competition can be sustained on existing and new networks."
UKE's proposal concerns wholesale broadband access, through which alternative operators can offer internet services to their own end customers. Wholesale broadband access is granted at a higher network level than "network infrastructure access" (also known as "unbundling") and allows the alternative operator to use a greater part of the incumbent's network.
UKE has proposed not to regulate the prices alternative operators pay for wholesale broadband access to TP's fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network, meaning that TP would determine this access price. UKE believes that such pricing freedom will give an incentive to TP to further roll out such networks. However, under the Commission's Recommendation on Next Generation Access Networks (see MEMO/10/424), a telecom regulator should only lift cost-orientated access pricing when functional separation (operationally separate business entities) or other strict non-discrimination rules have ensured equivalence of access for alternative operators. The Commission has therefore today called on UKE to either mandate cost-orientated access to FTTH or to impose rigorous non-discriminatory access to the incumbent's network which, together with the evidence of a significant competitive constraint from regulated copper access prices and/or other well developed alternative infrastructures like cable or LTE (Long Term Evolution, a standard for wireless communication of high-speed data), can provide sufficient competitive safeguards to allow UKE not to impose cost-orientated access to FTTH networks.
The Commission's decision follows a three month investigation during which BEREC, the body of European Telecoms Regulators, expressed support for the Commission's position. The investigation began in April when the Commission addressed a serious doubts letter to UKE (see IP/12/433).
EU telecoms rules require Member States to promote competition and the interests of consumers in the EU, as well as the development of the Single Market.
Article 7 of the Telecoms Framework Directive requires national telecoms regulators to notify the Commission, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and telecoms regulators in other EU countries, of the measures they plan to introduce to solve market problems. The EU telecoms rules enable the Commission to adopt further harmonisation measures in the form of recommendations or (binding) decisions if divergences in the regulatory approaches of national regulators, including remedies, persist across the EU in the longer term.
In July 2012 (SPEECH/12/552), Neelie Kroes outlined elements of a forthcoming package which will provide durable guidance for broadband access regulation until 2020. The draft proposals will be presented formally before the end of 2012 and will address issues including non-discrimination remedies, network access pricing and the conditions for pricing flexibility for "next generation" wholesale access products.
The Commission's letter sent to the Polish regulator UKE will be published at:
Neelie Kroes' website
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