Fibre ottiche, Next Generation Networks

The ups and down of European telecom regulation


Today Commissioner Kroes announced, via and ad-hoc press conference, the adoption of a well-expected proposal of regulation for the reduction of costs of rollout of broadband high-speed networks. On the same day,  Berec, the agency of European telecom regulators, adopted quite a negative opinion on Kroes’ proposed reform of access regulation (a rejection which had been already anticipated, although in diplomatic manners, 2 weeks ago).

The emphasis dedicated by Commissioner Kroes to the adoption of the draft regulation (the good news) reflects also the intent to minimize the media impact of the Berec’s opinion (the bad news). With regard to the latter, Berec is rejecting the substance of the Commission’s proposal, while sharing in a diplomatic ways the objectives of the Kroes’ reform. The national regulators refuse to follow the Commission’s diktat as how to regulate telecom networks (with regard to pricing and non-discrimination) and invoke their autonomy in deciding how to address specific national cases (while the Kroes’ proposal was quite prescriptive and rigide as to which remedy to apply).

Now, it is interesting to see what will happen next: it is difficult to believe that the Commission will completely disregard the Berec’s (non-binding) opinion, since a fair cooperation between the 2 bodies is necessary to guarantee the good functioning of the framework. Commissioner Kroes has now to return to her people and verify whether there is the possibility to adapt the current draft of the recommendation to the Berec’s wishes. Not an easy job, however, because Berec’s requests substantially water down the entire Kroes’ reform, therefore margins of manouver are limited.

The bitterness of the Berec’s move is somehow compensated by the success represented by the other event of the day, i.e. the proposed regulation on reduction of installation costs of high-speed networks. This is quite an important  step for the development of fibers networks in Europe, because it introduces some important innovations that, depending on the country affected, may change dramatically the way to lay down new infrastructures: public utilities such as energy, gas, water, airports, harbours, waste recycling, public lighting ecc, will be obliged to give access to their infrastructures (cabinets, ducts, towers) no operators intending to use them to deploy fibres networks. To time, this was possible only on commercial basis (and in fact in some countries such option never worked effectively), in the future will be obligatory and, in case of unjustified refusal, the national regulator will be entitled to intervene and fix modalities and price of access.

In addition, the proposed regulation aims at simplifiyng the administrative processes by introducing unified point of contacts and, in particular, by setting the maximum term of 6 months for granting or refusing authorizations or permits.

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