Online news journal CzechPosition.com reports that Czech industry minister Martin Kuba is calling for structural change at the national telecoms watchdog, the Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU), in a bid to stop local telcos from, in his words, ‘gouging citizens and companies’. The Czech Minister of Industry and Trade is calling for a complete overhaul in the way the under fire CTU operates in a bid to drive down end user prices for residential and business users. In a strident statement, Civic Democrat (ODS) minister Mr Kuba expressed his unhappiness at the record of the regulator and its handling of the domestic market, and pledged to appoint new members to its board to effect change.
Martin Kuba’s statement is in reaction to criticism of the CTU, the most recent coming this past week, which bemoans the fact that the Czech people pay more for lower quality phone services than almost anywhere else in Europe. Critics argue that as a result of the watchdog’s laissez faire attitude, local telcos Telefonica O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone have been able to maintain the status quo.
In his first initiative, Mr Kuba has nominated a particularly vocal critic of the CTU – local journalist Ondrej Maly – to join the five member board, in the hope that he could bring a ‘new wind’ and dynamism to what Kuba sees as ‘an unresponsive and sluggish institution’. Maly’s nomination however, must be approved by the whole Czech government, and the minister also refused to be drawn on whether or not the chairman of CTU, Pavel Dvorak, is one of those potentially facing the axe. Martin Kuba is also keen to see the re-vamped regulator taking a more active role in encouraging cheaper and better telecoms services in the country. ‘The CTU should act ex ante, with the competition office following up afterwards to see if there are any problems in the market. That is how it should work,’ the minister said. Specifically, Kuba plans to run a fine tooth comb over the CTU’s plans for the award of 4G licences to ensure they are framed in such a way to open up the market to competition and hopefully drive down retail prices.