Is the writing on the wall for Ofcom? 500 million consumers across the EU are to benefit from a single telecoms market that operates across borders. We originally spotted this major change in the Yorkshire Post.
"From today onwards, a single market without borders for Europe's telecoms operators and consumers is no longer only a dream,...
Telecoms is a field where our single market can bring about very concrete results for every citizen in terms of more choice and lower prices, whether for mobile phones or for broadband Internet connections.
At the same time, a single market with 500 million consumers opens new opportunities for telecoms operators - if Europe helps to ensure effective competition and consistent rules of the game. This is why we act today."European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso
The full press release has more detail on this new legislation that if approved could take effect from 2010. PublicTechnology.net has also covered the item and gives the breakdown for which markets the EU believes competition is not yet effective.
A major benefit of the legislation for consumers would be the right to switch telecoms operators within a day, and a right to transparent and comparable price information. It seems the various national regulators will continue to exist, but a super EU-wide regulator will exist and more independent watchdogs will be created to keep on eye on how close the countries regulator and dominant operator is.
Whether the UK needs yet another regulator and more watchdogs is very much open to debate. Regulation and competition has already brought about the creation of Openreach, and one perhaps unexpected side effect for consumers is that Openreach is charging for more individual jobs including fault finding visits. If EU regulation was to drive the headline price of broadband lower in the UK without there being real price savings behind the scenes it is likely providers and wholesalers would recoup costs through other methods, perhaps stricter usage allowances or charging for items that currently are bundled with many connections such as an email account.
The UK already has a variety of European telecoms operators offering services in the UK; Tiscali (Bulldog, Pipex, Nildram, F2S) , Telefonica (O2, Be), France Telecom (Orange). Which suggests to some extent the wholesale services in the UK are working and attracting companies. The retail broadband market is also such that Virgin Media and BT Retail are pretty much neck and neck in terms of market dominance.
The biggest concern is that pan-European regulation may make the task of getting effective broadband to people in the areas of the UK where there is little money to be made an even harder task. All too often when large bodies pass regulations they look at the needs of the many, rather than the needs of the few.