Europe’s Competition Double Standard

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When it comes to US-based companies like Microsoft and Apple, the European Union thinks they should open the doors on their intellectual property to competitors; when it comes to municipalities competing with broadband providers, the EU’s stance is downright American.

Europe's Competition Double Standard
EU Invokes American Business Practices

There is an AP story making the rounds about the failed attempt by Appingedam, a small town in the Netherlands, to build out a fiber-optic backbone.

This would provide faster service than the entrenched broadband providers, one cable and one telecom, offer to the community of 5,500.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes called the plan “unnecessary” since Appingedam was not working on fixing “a market failure or unaffordable prices for broadband services.”

It also marked the first time the EU had stomped down on such a proposal.

Appingedam planned to rent capacity on the backbone to any provider that could make the last mile (or I guess we should say kilometer) connection to households.

After the plan was introduced last year, both the cable and the telecom companies began making upgrades to their infrastructure.

The EU’s position mirrors what has happened in several states in the US, where legislation has been passed with the encouragement of cable and telecom lobbyists that ban municipalities from building such networks.

Should a bill sponsored by former SBC (now AT&T) executive Pete Sessions, a House Republican from Texas, become law, such a ban would cover the United States.

Considering the apparently commonly-held view outside the US that Europe tends to think more progressively on issues, its stance on the Appingedam issue looks very conservative, and in some ways very American.

After all, the EU doesn’t view slower broadband service as a “market failure,” even if Internet users believe otherwise.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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