In last week's editorial, European Voice berated Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for the digital agenda, for failing to incentivise investment in high-speed networks (“Old telecoms given an easy ride by Kroes”, 6-12 December). A fundamental incentive for any operator – incumbent or otherwise – is the chance of a fair return on investment.
Another is the ability to innovate. The commissioner recognises these, though some of her critics apparently do not. She also proposes more competition, with much tougher rules to prevent discrimination, so most incumbents will actually face more constraints, rather than fewer.
Balancing investment and competition is not easy, particularly when returns are so long-term and demand uncertain. We should know, as BT is a challenger across Europe, and investing heavily in fibre across the UK – probably the most competitive market in Europe. Properly regulated access is essential.
But with genuine ‘equivalent' non-discrimination, competition from other platforms, and constraints from existing broadband products, regulators can afford to allow a degree of pricing flexibility.
The commissioner should be commended. “Inexpert price-fixing”, to use your phrasing, is precisely what her critics are demanding, not the commissioner.