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12-03-2012 17:31:00

EU Telecom Regulators: Commission Should Watch Italy Situation Closely

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BRUSSELS -(Dow Jones)- Europe's telecoms regulators have serious doubts about a law passed last week by the Italian parliament, which they say threatens the independence of the 27-nation blocs' regulatory bodies.

"It is with great concern that BEREC, the network of European telecoms regulators, has learned of the recent passage by the lower house of the Italian Parliament of a government decree purporting to regulate the terms of access to Telecom Italia SpA's (TI) network," the group said in a statement Monday.

Last week, the chamber of deputies voted on the measure, which would open up the country's telecoms infrastructure network in terms of access to repair faults. ETNO, the telecoms industry body which represents former state-owned such as Telecom Italia, Belgacom SA (BELG.BT) and Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE.XE) says this is incompatible with European Union law in terms of unbundling services.

Unbundling is the term for giving competing companies access to the infrastructure of the telecoms network, meaning they can provide telecoms, Internet or TV services in exchange for paying a fee to the owner of the cable. The signals can travel through a new optic-fiber cable, or an older copper one.

"We call upon the European Commission to speak out against what can only be described as a worrying trend, and trust that the commission will closely monitor developments in Italy and promptly launch infringement procedures if the decree becomes law," BEREC said.

However, ECTA, which brings together new entrant telecoms companies including Vodafone Group PLC (VOD) and Bouygues Telecom, welcomed the measures.

"The Italian law now takes a step further and requires the liberalization of wholesale activation, maintenance and fault repair services, opening up these services to competition," ECTA said in a statement. "Any initiatives able to achieve a higher degree of liberalization in the sector and the connected benefits--while not threatening the role and competences of national regulators and the control of the EU--should be encouraged."

-By Frances Robinson, Dow Jones Newswires; +32 2 741 1486; frances.robinson@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 12, 2012 13:31 ET (17:31 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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