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Commission move on phone monopolies, reducing Internet costs

The European Commission has put forward measures that will oblige domestic phone-line monopolies to allow competition on their networks.

Once these suggestions have been adopted, the Commission hopes that European subscribers will enjoy a substantial reduction of Internet cos...
The European Commission has put forward measures that will oblige domestic phone-line monopolies to allow competition on their networks.

Once these suggestions have been adopted, the Commission hopes that European subscribers will enjoy a substantial reduction of Internet costs.

The proposals will pave the way for flat-fee Internet access, which should help European companies compete more effectively on the Internet. At present European subscribers usually pay by the minute for phone services and connection to the Internet, unlike in the USA where the cost of logging on to the Web is considerably cheaper.

In a recommendation to EU Member States, the Commission called for telecommunications operators to provide full, unbundled access to the 'local loop' - the final few metres of copper wires that link subscribers to their nearest exchange - by 31 December 2000.

Though such a recommendation is not binding, the Commission warned that it would use its antitrust powers against phone companies that refused to allow competition.

In a statement, Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, whose portfolio covers the Information Society, and Competition Commissioner Mario Monti, said that: 'the local access network remains one of the least competitive segments of the liberalised telecommunications sector. The measures addressed by the Commission to Member States on unbundled access to the local loop will help stimulate competition in the local access network, giving business and consumers access to an affordable advanced communications infrastructure and a wide range of services.

'This will enable Europe to seize the full potential of the digital, knowledge-based economy in growth and jobs. The Commission is confident that the recommended unbundling of the local loop will be a major step towards more competitive and efficient telecommunications markets and will facilitate the accelerated development of Internet services.'

The move follows on from the Commission's eEurope initiative and is the first step in response to the conclusions of the Council's 'dotcom' summit in Lisbon, which called for the promotion of an inclusive Information Society for all.

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