January 3, 2008 / 12:12 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-EU urges Belgium to open up broadband fast

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BRUSSELS, Jan 3 (Reuters) - The European Commission warned Belgium on Thursday to implement plans to boost competition in its broadband market quickly or face possible court action.

The EU executive backed plans by the Belgian regulator to force leading operator Belgacom BCOM.BR to give new market entrants fair access to its local network to provide broadband services.

“I welcome this long-awaited proposal by the Belgian regulator to enhance broadband competition in the Belgian market,” EU telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said.

“Effective and speedy enforcement of existing regulatory measures is crucial for more competition and better services,” she said in a statement, noting that Belgian consumers paid “rather high prices” for broadband services.

A Commission official said the EU executive would closely watch how the proposed measures are implemented, adding Belgium would only avoid an infringement procedure — which can eventually lead to court action — if it is done fully and quickly.

“The infringement procedure is still pending on Belgium on this,” the official said.

A spokesman for Reding said that although broadband penetration was above average in Belgium — 23.9 percent compared to an 18.2 percent EU average — this did not mean good competition on the local network, as this was partly due to access by cable.

Belgacom has a 46.8 percent share of the retail broadband market, the Commission said.

Belgacom’s main competitor is Telenet (TNET.BR), with its own cable network, while other operators such as Scarlet, Versatel and Tele2 (TEL2b.ST) offer services via Belgacom lines. (Reporting by Ingrid Melander, editing by Mark John/Will Waterman/Rory Channing)

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