The European Commission (EC) has called on the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA) to either amend or withdraw proposals related to the regulation of access to the broadband networks of the country’s dominant operators. The EC has claimed that implementing the local watchdog’s proposals ‘would damage competition and hamper investment in competitive broadband services’, which it has claimed could in turn ‘limit current and future offers available to consumers and businesses’.
Under FICORA’s plans it has suggested the regulation of two types of access: wholesale broadband access, which is granted at a higher network level; and network infrastructure access (also known as unbundling), which allows the alternative operator to use a greater part of its own network. The EC has however said it is concerned that the proposals do not use ‘important’ regulatory tools, such as effective non-discrimination and price obligations.
Commenting on the development, EC Vice President Neelie Kroes said: ‘Regulators have to ensure stable and predictable prices for broadband, but also introduce effective safeguards against discrimination, so that dominant operators do not get an unfair advantage. FICORA’s proposal is lacking both. I want FICORA to make a proposal which creates a transparent and predictable regulatory environment for Finnish broadband and which encourages investment and competition.’
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in June this year the EC confirmed that it would be examining in more detail whether FICORA should allow regional telcos to provide access to their broadband networks to alternative operators without proper pricing regulation. In announcing its plans, the EC noted that it had doubts that ‘FICORA’s decision not to impose cost-oriented prices for access to fibre networks of dominant operators in Finland contravenes EU telecoms rules’, while suggesting that, in the absence of ‘proper regulation’, Finland’s dominant broadband operators would be in a position to charge access rates at ‘excessive levels’. FICORA had reportedly proposed the setting of maximum prices for access to copper based services provided by the country’s eight largest broadband operators, although it did not set a price cap for fibre-based access. Meanwhile, it recommended that for a further 19 operators obligations related only to access, transparency and non-discrimination would be imposed. Further, regarding the market for wholesale broadband access, only access, transparency and non-discrimination obligations for connections above 8Mbps are planned for all operators. The EC in its initial response to the proposals said that it had concerns that differing treatment of lower speed broadband access within the boundaries of the same product market could result in a distortion of competition, in particular where no regulatory obligation is prescribed at all for such low speeds.