Israel's Bezeq Telecom fined for blocking rivals' fiber networks

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecoms group, has been fined 30 million shekels ($8.6 million) for what the competition regulator said was an “abuse of the firm’s monopolistic position” in telecommunications infrastructure.

The antitrust authority also imposed a financial penalty of 500,000 shekels on a senior Bezeq official and said on Wednesday it intended to levy a further 8 million shekel fine on Bezeq for misinformation during the authority’s investigation.

The regulator said Bezeq blocked competitors from deploying wired communications networks using the company’s infrastructure, which “could adversely affect the development of competition in the supply of Internet, television and wired telecoms services”.

Bezeq declined to comment.

Israel’s telecoms regulator in 2012 created a wholesale market that required Bezeq to allow smaller rivals Cell com and Partner Communications to use its network -- the only one in Israel that reaches almost every home.

The antitrust authority noted that Cell com and Partner were deploying an independent fiber optics network in Israel that would compete with Bezeq.

“Inquiries to Bezeq from companies like Cell com and Partner seeking to use Bezel’s ... infrastructure to deploy independent wired networks have faced many difficulties and delays,” the authority said, adding that the firms have incurred extra costs.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise