On 8 March 2011 the French Competition Authority (the 'Authority') issued an opinion (the 'Opinion') on the competitive aspects of the broadband and very high broadband wholesale markets.

The Opinion followed a request from the French Authority regulating Electronic Communication and Post (the 'Telecoms Regulator') and was issued in the context of the transitioning electronic communication market.

This market opened to competition almost fifteen years ago, and according to the Opinion, the Telecoms Regulator plays a determining role in the transition from the initial situation of monopoly of the incumbent operator, France Telecom, to the current objective of full competition involving various operators.

For the Authority, the development of competition in the electronic communication market should lessen the need for regulation.  In very populated areas, alternative operators (such as Free and SFR) can compete with France Telecom.  Such competition could allow new operators to enter the market.   As a result the Authority has advised the Telecoms Regulator to deregulate areas where healthy competition exists. 

Conversely, the Authority underlines that in less populated areas, where the level of competition is lower, France Telecom still holds a very strong position which justifies the Telecoms Regulator's regulatory interventions.

As regards the optical fibre market, the Authority indicates that the Telecoms Regulator acts to create a "level playing field" in providing operators with the necessary framework for their investment decisions by imposing ex ante obligations to access networks and to build infrastructures.  The Authority indicates that the Telecoms Regulator's role will be evaluated within twelve or eighteen months.

Finally, the Authority notes that following implementation of the EU Telecoms framework, the Telecoms Regulator will have the opportunity to determine whether the functional separation of France Telecom between retail and network businesses is appropriate. 

The Authority thus encourages the Telecoms Regulator to consider this possibility.

To view Community Week, Issue 512; 11th March 2011 in full, Click here.

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