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Belgian watchdogs call for harder rules on TV and broadband competition

Belgian telecoms and media regulators have called for more competition in the country’s pay TV and broadband markets and proposed a number of new measures to achieve this.

The four regulators covering both the Flemish and French-speaking regions of the country, the Vlaamse Regulator voor de Media, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel, the Medienrat, and BIPT, have said that the broadband and pay TV markets are “still characterised by competition shortcomings” and that the objectives of the existing regulatory framework have not been met.

Operators such as Telenet could be subject to further regulations

Operators such as Telenet could be subject to further regulations

The regulators found that leading players Proximus, Telenet, Brutélé and Nethys – operating under the Voo brand – and Coditel – operating under the SFR brand – still have “significant market power on the relevant wholesale markets”.

The watchdogs said they would extend the obligation placed on the operator to enable third-party players to access their networks to “allow real competition for broadband internet, television and bundled offers to develop”.

The regulators said they would maintain existing obligations based on their 2011 market analysis regarding access, transparency, non-discrimination, price control, and analytical accounting. Cable operators are additionally required to provide access to

EuroPacketCable-based phone providers.

The watchdogs’ consultation paper has called for investigation into whether leading player Proximus should be obliged to open up its new fibre network under the same rules applied to its copper network.

The regulators’ draft decision calls for cost-based access to the copper network to be maintained but for “fair” prices for access to fibre and cable networks to be implemented in addition.

The four organisations proposed that regulations should be applied in varying degrees depending on how much competition there is in particular regions of the country.

Market players have until September 15 to comment on the draft decisions, after which they will be submitted to the Belgian competition regulator and the EC.

Orange Belgium, which offered a low-cost broadband and TV service called Love last year, welcomed the proposals, calling for the implementation of a ‘cost-plus’ model for wholesale charges rather than the current ‘retail-minus’ model. It also called for wholesale charges by cable operators to be cut by up to €10 per customer per month.

The operator said that under current rules it was unable to bundle its broadband and TV service with fixed telephony on an economically sustainable basis.