As policy announcements go, the one that just came out of the European Commission speaks volumes about just how much the world of communications has changed in the past few years.
The EC said Thursday it would no longer regulate fixed telephones lines. For those of you too young to remember, before iPhones, people used to have a phone sitting in their homes with buttons or a circular thing on the face and a long wire running into the wall.
This is what is meant by “fixed line.”
Anyhoo, in a press conference, EC vice president Neelie Kroes said the reason for ending regulation was twofold.
First, there are so many providers offering fixed-line services in Europe that costs are very low. And there are so many alternative technologies for making phone calls, like voice over IP, that the volume of traditional has been falling rapidly.
So, instead of wasting time on yesterday’s technology, Kroes wants to shift regulatory resources to areas like mobile services and broadband competition.
“Less regulation, more competition,” Kroes said at the press conference. “My goal for EU telecoms is to ensure that EU consumers enjoy the highest level of competition.”
Practically speaking, that move won’t likely have much immediate impact on consumers. For telecom companies, it means they won’t be subject to lengthy reviews when they plan changes in fixed line services and pricing. The EC is betting there is enough competition to keep providers in check and to keep prices falling.
However, there are areas where the EC is concerned there is not enough consumer protection, and it’s redeploying its regulators to provide more oversight and review of telecom services and pricing.
For instance, the EC said it will be revisiting how it defines broadband markets to find ways to reduce regulations and increase competition. The EC also wants to dedicate more resources to ensure competition for business users with the goal of lowering their costs to “unleash growth across the economy.”