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Results of Growth-Oriented Telecom Policies

According to a new report from Research and Markets, in recent years there has been a sea change in the role played by the local copper wire loop that links the phone service subscriber to the telco operator's exchange.

Through the local loop, the subscriber can now make phone calls, access the Internet, watch pay-TV, and use video-on-demand services over a single telephone line. The local loop has thus become a fundamental element in the market for telecom services. European regulators clearly understood the economic significance as they enacting policies that have created one of the most open, competitive, and technically advanced, communications and entertainment service markets in the world.

Most of Western European countries started to unbundle the local loop in 2000-2001. By making it compulsory for incumbent telecom operators to offer third parties access to their local loop at a cost-oriented price, unbundling was expected to foster competition in telephone services and in Internet access via DSL. This measure was based on the recognition of the local loop as an "essential facility" that is difficult to duplicate.

It appeared all the more important in that there was previously little infrastructure competition in the broadband market (DSL, cable, FTTx) in the majority of European countries. After a slow start, the pace of unbundling began to speed up considerably in mid-2004.

Recourse to unbundling has now become one of the chief points of focus in the growth strategy adopted by operators and Internet service providers (ISPs) within the rapidly evolving broadband markets of Europe. It enables them to differentiate their offerings and roll out new options -- especially in regard to triple-play services.

In contrast, in the U.S. the FCC has reversed prior unbundling policies that would have enabled the country to catch up with the advances in leading global broadband markets. As a result, the FCC's systematic and intentional return to a closed duopoly of 'managed competition' has significantly contributed to comparatively higher-prices and fewer provider choices in most U.S. markets.

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