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France Telecom declines to open up ADSL to rivals

Can't get the business plan together, it tells Brussels

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France Telecom has given a Gallic shrug to the European Commission's notion that it should lease lines to competitors such as 9Telecom (who made the formal complaint in November), Cegetal and Siris so that they can offer higher speed Internet access. All FT will say is that it doesn't think it could come up with a business plan for this in the eight weeks it has been given by the EC Competition Directorate. FT is in danger of being hauled up by the for abuse of its dominant position and creating barriers to market entry by competitors, but with the French government holding 63.6 percent of France Telecom shares, ART, the French telecom regulator (Autorité de Régulation de Telécommunications) has few teeth. FT has refused to publish tariffs for bilateral interconnection, and delayed negotiations over charges for many months. FT still has a throat lock on the local loop so far as new would-be entrants are concerned. One solution would be for ART to license wireless local loop entrants. Last July, the rates FT was proposing were approved and deployment was expected to take three years, with an investment of up to 2 billion francs. However, ART thought that FT was being too competitive, and restricted FT's Wanadoo Netissimo to a few suburbs and towns to the west of Paris. The launch was in November. Cegetel wants to use HDSL with FT local loops in the Lille, Nantes and Lyon areas at 5,000 to 10,000 francs per line. When France Telecom announced its first half-year results in September in the Financial Times, a slogan in its advertisement said "Profit from open competition to accelerate growth and benefit from it". They've nearly made it: it's just that pesky "open" word that's causing the problems. ®

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