ALTO backs ComReg over Eircom legal tussle

6 Jun 2003

Telecommunications industry group ALTO has thrown its support behind the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), after Eircom secured a High Court stay on a directive ordering the telco to reduce the charges it makes for competitors to access its network.

On Wednesday this week, Eircom secured the stay at the High Court, claiming in its submission that the regulator’s decision last week to force Eircom to reduce its charges would cost it tens of millions of euro in lost revenues. In newspaper reports, Eircom claimed that it was willing to suspend a €1bn investment in its network due to the ComReg directive.

In a statement yesterday, the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators (ALTO) signalled its “strongest possible support” for ComReg’s decision to cut the cost that Eircom charges other firms to use its local access network.

In a statement the lobby group said: “ComReg’s decision reduced Eircom’s charges for other operators accessing its local network – a process known as local loop unbundling (LLU). Currently, approximately 1,000 lines, out of Eircom’s total of 1.7m lines, have been accessed/unbundled in this manner. On these current volumes, ALTO estimates that ComReg’s decision will cost Eircom in the region of only €1,000 per month.”

ALTO’s chairman Iarla Flynn wryly noted: “The legal fees for one day of Eircom’s court case will cost them a great deal more than ComReg’s decision. There seems to be no logic to this other than to block an attempt to increase competition and to lower prices for broadband services for all consumers.”

According to Flynn, Eircom’s recent decision to hike up line rental fees will cost consumers an extra €50m each year.

“Eircom clearly wants to eliminate any competition in the fixed line market, giving them a free hand to further increase charges,” Flynn warned.

On Wednesday, Esat BT decided to reduce its business broadband DSL services by 15pc in response to the original ComReg ruling.

By John Kennedy