EC concern over Belgian cable regulation

The European Commission has expressed concern about proposals by Belgian regulators to regulate broadcasting and broadband services.

Regulators plan to force telco Belgacom and cable operators to open up their cable and xDSL networks to alternative operators to promote competition in the market. However, the Commission has released a statement asking the regulators “to take full account of market developments in both markets and to further substantiate and justify its reasoning with regard to the broadcasting market”. Under the proposed measure, Belgacom would have to give access for competitors to its broadband network and cable operators, Telenet, Brutélé, Numéricable, Tecteo and AIESH would have to give access for competitors to their cable networks.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice-president for the Digital Agenda said: “I fully share the objective of the Belgian audiovisual and telecoms regulators to enhance competition for the benefit of the Belgian consumers, who are entitled to more choice and lower prices. However, regulators have to carefully examine market developments and avoid imposing disproportionate obligations on market operators, as this may create unnecessary burdens and ultimately stifle investment and innovation. The Commission has therefore asked the Belgian regulators to carefully examine the competitive conditions in the markets concerned and provide further evidence for their proposed measures”.

The Commission has expressed a number of concerns about the Belgian regulators’ proposals. In particular, it criticised the regulators’ analysis of the broadcasting markets. It has also asked the regulators to take better account of market developments in the light of recent entry of competitors into the market, including Belgacom’s IPTV service, the trend towards
multi-play and converged broadband-broadcasting offers and the proposed regulation of Belgacom, which would allow third parties to offer both broadband and IPTV services over Belgacom’s network. The Commission has also asked the regulators to justify better the proportionality of the obligation for cable operators to provide an analogue resale offer.

Concerning the broadband markets, the Commission has invited the regulators to ensure that the proposed regulation does not prevent access to offers over next generation fibre networks and to take into account the competitive pressure exercised at retail level by the cable operators.

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