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Showdown in Brussels

Michelle Donegan
2/26/2008

3:55 PM -- European commissioner Viviane Reding faces her first public hearing tomorrow on her proposals to overhaul European telecoms regulation. These Brussels meetings are usually very tame affairs, but tomorrow's hearing looks set to be a proper showdown between the European Commission and national regulators.

There's something for just about everyone to hate in Reding's new telecoms package, even though the policies are well intended to boost competition and move toward a single European telecoms market. The most emotive issues are the proposals to introduce a European super regulator -- a "European FCC" as it has been called -- and to give national regulators the power to impose functional separation on incumbent operators.

Ofcom 's CEO Ed Richards will be speaking tomorrow and he is adamantly opposed to the idea of a European regulator. Richards will be joined by representatives from Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), who will no doubt speak out against the threat of functional separation. So, look for the sparks to fly on this panel. (See Ofcom Opposes Euro FCC and Reding Wants 'European FCC'.)

The European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO) doesn't want any mention of functional separation on the European law books and has called for this proposal to be scrapped. ETNO Director Michael Bartholomew attacked Reding's plans as "Stalinesque."

The European Regulators Group (ERG) is also expected to propose a stronger role for itself and national regulators to fend off the imposition of a European regulator.

Tomorrow's hearing is only the beginning of a very long process to update European telecoms law, and it's bound to get uncomfortable for Ms. Reding.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading

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