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EU will not back down in Italy broadband fight: Kroes

European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes holds a news conference on the European Commission telecoms package in Brussels Septem
European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes holds a news conference on the European Commission telecoms package in Brussels Septem

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Europe's top telecoms regulator Neelie Kroes said she would stick to her position in a conflict with Italy over its plan to lower the wholesale broadband prices that Telecom Italia charges its rivals to rent its copper lines.

The move to lower fees for rivals who use the fixed-line copper network of the former monopoly was cheered by Telecom Italia's competitors but drew criticism from the company. The EU Commission said it was concerned that Italian regulator AGCOM had not set prices according to EU guidelines.

The European Commission in August said it had invoked a review mechanism and opened talks with AGCOM. Kroes is trying to bring into line diverging national regulations of Europe's telecom operators so as to foster a single market for broadband and mobile services in the region. However, some national regulators oppose efforts to hand over influence of their local decisions to Brussels.

In the past year, Kroes has proposed a series of reforms aimed at spurring telecom firms to invest more in high-speed networks at a time when some services in Europe, such as mobile broadband, lag the U.S. and Asia.

Asked on Wednesday how Brussels intends to act in Italy, Kroes said that she had made a proposal for a compromise to AGCOM but had not been able to reach an accord.

"I regret that this decision has been taken at this moment. In Italy, I tried to bridge the gap and the offer was refused," she said at the Morgan Stanley investment conference.

"We stick to our line in Brussels."

The next step will be for the EU commission to notify Italy with a recommendation by December 12 for action to take on the wholesale broadband rates, which the country's regulator will then have a month to answer. If Italy does not comply, the EU could open an enforcement action.

(Reporting by Leila Abboud; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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