While the European Commission is keeping its thoughts to itself ahead of a much-anticipated review of European telecoms rules, Ofcom, the UK telecoms and media regulator, has fired the opening salvo in the battle over the future regulatory structure of the telecoms industry.
In February Ofcom published its Initial Conclusions from the Strategic Review of Digital Communications. The review is essentially how to get broadband to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible and with the highest possible speeds. Ofcom’s strategy is:
“Competition between different networks, supplemented by competition based on access to BT’s ducts and poles, is central to our strategy. Where this competition is effective, it will allow us to deregulate downstream forms of network access.”
By addressing persistent bottlenecks, but deregulating a highly competitive services market, Ofcom sets out the right approach (as previously argued by the DisCo blog). It’s difficult to build a telecoms network without access to passive infrastructure like ducts and poles so pushing for improvements in the way competitors get access to these resources is sensible.
Ofcom’s attention to the fact that premium sports programming can raise switching costs is laudable. While the “temporary monopoly” of IP rights doesn’t necessarily imply monopoly in the antitrust sense, DisCo has previously noted cases where content licensing can give rise to competition concerns.