Greece falls in line with EU b'cast rules


BRUSSELS -- Greece has caved in to a European Commission demand to open up its digital broadcasting market. The move comes after a four-year campaign during which the commission had taken the Greek government to court and threatened to slap fines of as much as $50,000 a day on Athens.

However, the EC -- the European Union's executive authority -- said Friday that Greece has changed its laws to lift the market stranglehold of the former state telecoms monopolies, and that the EU legal challenge will be dropped.

"Greece has finally completed its national regulatory framework for broadcasting transmission services," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said. "Companies who want to invest in Greece, in particular in digital broadcasting, will now be fully aware of rights and obligations. I really hope they will take full advantage of it."

The EU's 27 member states were supposed to adopt and implement the 2002 electronic communications liberalization directive by July 2003, but Greece held out.

The law requires EU governments to open up their telecoms markets, allowing new businesses to compete for Internet, phone and broadcasting services with former state monopolies. However, the Greek government version, unveiled only in February of 2006, explicitly excluded broadcasting transmission services.

The slow pace of the Greek government to address the issue has ensured the country has only a handful of telephone firms and broadband Internet services to choose from. Only 7% of Greek homes have broadband, by far the lowest rate in the EU.