Belgian cable operator Telenet continues to resist the proposed Open Cable regulation, proposed by the national telecoms authority BIPT and the regional media authorities. “Even though the revised proposal has taken into account a number of the concerns expressed by the cable operators, it is still largely inadequate and outdated,” according to the cabler.
Telenet had the opportunity to review the new proposal on the regulation of the telecommunications market submitted by the Conference of Regulators (CRC) to the European Authorities. This proposal is currently still in the draft phase, and should now be examined by the European Commission by August, 20, 2011 at the latest.
On December, 21, 2010, the various national and regional regulators (VRM, BIPT, CSA and Medienrat) published a draft to which the operators were invited to submit their comments. According to the initial proposal, cable operators should make analogue television available on a wholesale basis, provide access to their digital TV platform and also make broadband internet available on a wholesale basis, the latter only in combination with access to digital TV.
Meanwhile, the regulators have made a few amendments to the proposed regulation. Belgacom will no longer be permitted access to the digital TV platform and cable operators’ broadband internet services. The flexibility regarding access to the digital TV platform and broadband internet services (including number of channels, speed and volume) will be based on a strict framework, with the pricing of the wholesale offer on a “retail minus” concept to be defined through a separate consultation round.
The European Commission has to advise before August 20 and in the case of a positive decision the Belgian regulators will have to introduce a formal ruling.
According to Telenet, consumers already have a choice, being able to take TV services from a number of sources, including satellite DTH, IPTV and digital terrestrial. The latter is debatable; DTH and IPTV offer a wide choice of channels, but the DTT platform in both the Dutch and French speaking parts is under-developed and consists only of a limited number of public channels. Interestingly, Telenet has an agreement with the DTT operator Norking Belgium, but so far not introduced a commercial offer to the market.
In a statement, Telenet said that that the current market situation does not constitute any consumer harm. The price for cable TV has already been regulated, and is among the lowest in Europe. The regulation of analogue TV also appears outdated, with no more than 28% of the population is currently watching analogue TV only. Digital TV continues to expand thanks to the highly competitive dynamics between the various operators, which include Belgacom, Scarlet, Billi, Mobistar, TV Vlaanderen and Telenet.