EU telecom reform progresses; France Telecom confirms outlook

A European Union body made progress this week on a long-debated telecom reform plan, while Euro telco France Telecom reported earnings that may bolster the regional sector. The next step for the reform proposal is a parliament vote.

The reform package includes the oft-discussed plan for a pan-European regulatory group that would oversee all European telecom operators and could have the power to drive structural separation of telcos in various countries in the interest of increasing competition. Many telco incumbents understandably have been against that level of empowerment. One of those firms, France Telecom, this week reported first quarter earnings that included lower EBITDA, but a re-confirmation of the company's outlook for 2009, seen as a boost to the European telecom sector after Germany's Deutsche Telekom and Sweden's TeliaSonera recently issued financial revisions.

Among other issues discussed in the EU telecom reform package was a recent bid (heavily opposed in France, by the way) to have Internet access declared a fundamental human right, an act which would limit the ability of service providers to control and restrict individual users' Internet access in cases of illegal downloading. It did not gain enough support to proceed.

For more:
- The Wall Street Journal has this reform update
- MarketWatch has this report on France Telecom

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