Cable Europe: "no must carry for on demand"

The European cable lobby group Cable Europe has issued a cautious welcome for the EU's promotion of infrastructure based competition, (Daily News 25.09.08), but it has warned against mandating competitive access to ‘ducts' and is particularly resistant to any extension of ‘must carry' rules to include on demand material.Cable Europe says networks in Europe pass more than 100 million homes of which 73 million are connected to receive digital TV, very fast internet or telephony services. This autumn +100Mbps internet services via cable became commercially available in France (Numéricable), The Netherlands (UPC) and Finland (Welho). More countries are expected to obtain a +100Mbps service via cable before the end of the year.The cable industry pleads for a stable regulatory regime that stimulates investments in networks. Last year the cable industry invested about 22 per cent of its revenue (E4 billion) in improving its networks. It says that while the proposals of the European Parliament are, overall, supportive of infrastructure based competition, cable is disappointed by the vote in first reading on a measure that mandates all network owners to give third parties access to their ducts, i.e. the plastic tubes laid in the ground in which cable, copper or fibre lines are rolled out.The current proposal presents an unacceptable major shift in European regulation. It is unheard of for such intrusive regulation to be applicable to all market players, without making any difference between small and big market players.Whereas in many EU countries the cable industry has become the strongest alternative to national telecom incumbent, the latter typically generates 10 times more revenue than the combined cable industry for that country. Cable Europe hopes that this proposal will be amended before final adoption of the texts in the spring of next year. The operational burden on small operators generated by this regulation would be disproportionate.On content access to networks, cable operators are obliged to carry TV stations with a "must carry" status on their network. Must carry regulation is in most member states not applicable to satellite, IPTV operators or Internet based video services. The extension of must carry obligations to the on-demand platform of must carry broadcasters would further disadvantage cable. It would oblige cable operators to offer the on-demand content library of any TV station with must carry status. This would hinder the development of on demand services via cable, still a relatively new and emerging part of the cable business.Prominent cable execs were able to put their point face to face in a meeting with Commissioner Redding at a meeting in Brussels in Wednesday evening. In attendance included: Mike Fries, Liberty Global (active in 14 EU countries); Neil Berkett, Virgin Media (UK); Eugenio Galdon, Ono (Spain); Manuel Cubero, Kabel Deutschland (Germany); Bernard Dijkhuizen, Ziggo (Netherlands); Arnaud Polaillon, Numéricable (France); Duco Sickinghe, Telenet (Belgium); Tomas Franzén, Comhem (Sweden); Niels Brenning, YouSee (Denmark); Johan Flykt, Welho (Finland) and Manuel Kohnstamm, President Cable Europe.

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