EU forcing French cable reform

Gov't sez services need approval; org sez that's not fair

BRUSSELS — European Union regulators have warned France to comply with cable laws or face legal action in the European Court of Justice in two months.

Brussels alleges that French rules make it harder for cable operators to launch telephony and Internet services, weakening their position against former phone monopoly France Télécom.

Cable companies have less than 0.2% of the telephony market in France, less than 15% of the broadband Internet market and less than 4% of the overall Internet market.

Under French law, cablers must get approval from all relevant local authorities before they are allowed to offer telephone services. This slows down the process and can often lead to no service being launched at all.

According to EU rules all companies, whether cable, telco or satellite, are meant to be free to provide services on a level playing field throughout Europe to make it easier for firms to enter new markets and encourage greater competition.

EU regulators are already investigating whether France Telecom and its Internet Service Provider Wanadooo have broken European antitrust laws.

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