The European Commission (EC) has confirmed that it will examine in more detail whether Finnish Comms Regulatory Authority (FICORA), the Finnish telecoms regulator, 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’. The Finnish watchdog’s plans, the EC has claimed, could negatively affect competition in the country’s broadband sector, while also hampering the future development of both fibre and copper infrastructure. Further, the Commission has suggested 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, it is understood, had 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 responding 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.
Having claimed that the ‘fragmented regulatory approach’ required further discussion with other European regulators, the EC has confirmed that it has started a three-month investigation into the matter, with Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President, stating: ‘We need to ensure competition for companies offering broadband services. Proper and consistent regulation in the EU is a key to building more competitive markets in broadband, including high-speed networks.’