France rapped by EU for discrimination over cable telephony

16 Jun 2004

The European Union is suing the French government for allegedly discriminating against cable TV operators wishing to offer telephony or internet access services over their networks. The EU says that cable firms should not have to consult ‘municipal authorities’ prior to gaining rights for access to infrastructure. Commission spokesman Tilman Lueder says that some authorities have inexplicably refused permission for cable firms to offer such services, even though traditional telecoms operators are not required to apply for approval. Although all networks are supposed to operate on an equal footing, the EU argues that this is not the case in France. It hopes that its petition will create a more competitive environment in the country and allow smaller companies to take the fight to incumbent France Télécom (FT). It is not the first time that Brussels has locked horns with Paris over allegations of favouritism towards its national PTO. In April 2003 the Commission requested that FT return around EUR100 million to rival operators for costs associated with building and maintaining infrastructure in remote areas. Then in July it penalised the telco’s internet division Wanadoo to the tune of EUR10.35 million for its ‘predatory pricing’ practices. Elsewhere, FT is also at the centre of an investigation questioning the legality of the French government’s EUR9 billion credit line facility to its national utility.

France, Orange Group