Mechelen-based cableco Telenet has lost an appeal against a ruling which orders it to allow wholesale access to its hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) network, Reuters reports. According to the news source, the Brussels Court of Appeal has finally handed down its decision, having originally been expected to rule on the matter back in April 2012. However, despite the latest development it is understood that the decision to force Telenet to open up its network could still yet be overturned, as another court case remains pending, with a ruling not expected until sometime next year.
As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the issue stems from December 2010 proposals made by the Belgian Institute for Post and Telecommunication (BIPT), alongside local media watchdogs CSA, Medienrat and VRM, which called for cable networks to be opened up to competition. Four draft decisions were issued at that date aimed at forcing dominant cable operators to open up their infrastructure and offer wholesale versions of their respective analogue TV and broadband services. Telenet, citing Belgacom’s dominance in the sector, said at the time that it was surprised by the decision, and argued that no further regulation of the country’s TV and broadband sector was required. Despite its objections, in March 2011 it was announced that Belgium’s Competition Council had approved the analysis of the broadcast market produced by the BIPT and the regional media authorities. With the BIPT having sent a slightly revised version of its proposals to the European Commission (EC), Telenet in May 2011 claimed that the updated market decision was still inaccurate, while the following month saw reports that the EC itself had expressed concern over the proposals; the Commission at that date asked the Belgian regulator to take full account of market developments and to further substantiate and justify its reasoning with regard to the broadcasting market. Subsequently though, in July 2011 plans to open the cable networks to competition were approved by the relevant local regulators, prompting Telenet to confirm that it intended to launch a legal challenge with a view to halting the new regulation.