The European Commission (EC) has opened an ‘in-depth investigation’ into plans by Portugal’s National Communications Authority (Autoridade Nacional de Comunicacoes, ANACOM) to refrain from granting regulated local or central access to the PT Portugal (MEO) fibre-optic network in parts of the country where there is little prospect of alternative infrastructure deployment. In its draft decision, ANACOM conducted an analysis of the retail and wholesale markets for broadband services. It found that MEO has significant market power (SMP) on both the local and the central wholesale access markets for broadband (covering copper, fibre and cable platforms). ANACOM has divided the Portuguese territory into two distinct geographic retail markets: ‘competitive’ parishes (mostly urban areas where alternative operators are present with significant coverage of next generation networks (NGNs) and/or a limited market share by MEO) and ‘non-competitive’ parishes (mostly rural, where MEO is by far the strongest provider of broadband services).
In justifying its investigation, the EC argues: ‘Despite the very limited economic prospects that alternative operators could independently deploy their own fibre in less densely populated areas in the short or medium term, ANACOM has not provided a sufficiently substantiated justification as to why not regulating fibre access would foster a sustainable competitive market at retail level and represent an acceptable balance between the objectives of competition and efficient investment in end-users’ interest.’ As such, the Commission believes that ANACOM’s intention not to regulate access to MEO’s fibre network in the ‘non-competitive’ areas is contrary to the provision of EU telecoms rules.
Under the EU Framework and Access Directives, telecoms regulators can decide to impose specific remedies on operators with SMP to allow alternative operators to more easily deploy their own infrastructure and to compete more effectively with them for consumers. These remedies typically include the obligation to provide proportionate access for alternative operators to specific elements of the network.