Kroes hails role of cable in meeting Digital Agenda

European Commissioner Neelie Kroes has said she would welcome greater price competition from cable and has highlighted the role of cable and private sector investment in meeting the EC’s Digital Agenda goals.

In an interview with cable industry association Cable Europe’s journal Cable News, Kroes said that just over 50% of all EU households were currently within the physical reach of cable networks. “This clearly could help reaching our target of 100Mbps broadband connections for half of Europe’s citizens,” she said. On top of this, she added cable could offer 100Mbps at attractive prices, giving it a clear competitive edge. By competing head-on with incumbent operators, cable could increase awareness in next-generation network infrastructures, such as fibre. “This is why I hope that efforts to upgrade cable networks to provide high-speed broadband keep on making rapid progress, also beyond the existing reach of cable networks,” said Kroes. “In addition, should cable companies with upgraded networks decide to engage in greater price leadership, adding stronger competitive pressure on traditional telecoms networks, we would obviously welcome that.”

Kroes admitted that it would “not be easy” to mobilise the €300 billion the EC estimated would be required to deliver 30Mbps to all Europeans and 100Mbps to half of the population by 2020, given current economic circumstances. She said that the EC’s goal was to encourage private investment in infrastructure. “I must emphasise that infrastructure investment will be led by the private sector and our most important action is to create the right conditions to encourage private initiatives. This is at the core of the regulatory framework for e-communications, revised by the Commission in 2009 and complemented by the 2010 Recommendation on regulated access to next generation access networks,” she said.

Cable Europe welcomed Kroes’ emphasis on the role of the private sector. “Today is a reminder that this Commissioner is a fan of competition. And we are agents of the Digital Agenda here to compete with European telecom incumbents. Europe’s consumers are right to demand the best service available and the Commissioner is right to call for greater investments which, in the end, benefit the wider economy for Europe,” said Cable Europe president Manuel Kohnstamm. “Commissioner Kroes has also highlighted cable’s role in achieving her Digital Agenda. Rolling out fast fibre-rich broadband service is also at the top of our agenda.”