EC's telecom reforms met with resistance

Would create a Pan-European regulatory body

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission's planned telecom reforms, aimed at providing better and cheaper Internet and cable television, were rebuffed Thursday by EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg.

The proposals, championed by EU Information Society and Media commissioner Viviane Reding, aim to create a new, Pan-European regulatory authority. Reding argued that lax oversight has allowed markets to slacken, so telecoms companies have little incentive to develop new services like VOD and mobile TV.

But almost all the 27 telecom ministers rejected her plan as overly bureaucratic. Reding indicated, however, that she would support a compromise that would beef up the existing regulatory structures instead.

Reding's reforms also propose selling off radio frequencies used by broadcasters and mobile phone operators. She told the ministers that the half radio spectrum -- which will become available when analog TV signals are shut down -- should be allocated to new mobile and wireless services by 2010.

"This would allow us to turn the dream of 'broadband for all Europeans' into a reality, while at the same time allowing enough space for commercial and public broadcasters to develop and offer new and more modern TV services," she said.