A number of associations and lobby groups representing Irish telcos and consumers have written to the European Commission (EC) to request that it moves to block proposals that would split the Republic’s telecoms market, creating, the group says, a potential ‘two-tier’ system in the industry. SiliconRepublic reports that the European Competitive Telecoms Association (ECTA), lobby group Ireland Offline and Alternative Operators in the Communications Market (ALTO) – which represents firms like BT Ireland, Vodafone Ireland and Magnet Networks – have written to Reinald Kruger, director general of information Society and Media at the European Commission, to express their ‘grave concerns’ about the potential distorting effects on the market the proposals could have.
The proposals concern plans by the market regulator ComReg to impose higher line rental fees on consumers in rural and suburban areas. Earlier this month TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate reported that Ireland Offline has already raised concerns over the plan. Its analysis of ComReg Document 12/63 leads it to believe that rentals could rise to EUR40 (USD50.9) a month from the current EUR26 by 2014, to allow former monopoly Eircom to compete more effectively in urban areas, but could come at the expense of rural users. ComReg’s proposal is the result of a consultation on price regulation of bundled offers (ComReg consultation 11/72), it says, and suggests that in some areas Eircom would not have to levy a line rental on its customers. However, IrelandOffline argues that under such a rebalancing scheme, the shortfall would have to be made up by rural users. The EC is now being urged to block proposed split of Irish telecoms market with one unnamed source deeming the proposed changes as ‘sub-dividing the market into the haves and have-nots – the people who have fast broadband services like UPC and those that have not’. ComReg last night emphasised that the mooted changes are ‘just proposals at this point’, adding that no final decision has been taken. The proposals would involve redefining Market 1 (the public telephone network for residential and business customers) and Market 4 (the wholesale network, including DSL broadband services, both unbundled local loop – LLU – and bitstream).