Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU to End Telecommunication Monopolies

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union nations have agreed to end state monopolies on building and operating telecommunication networks by Jan. 1, 1998.

The accord late Thursday evening came after a meeting of telecommunications ministers from the 12 EU nations aimed at pushing ahead plans to liberalize the sector.

However, the ministers remained divided over how soon existing systems such as railway and television cable networks -- could be opened up to rival state-owned telephone networks.

The EU's executive body, the European Commission, said such "alternative" networks should be allowed to carry phone services from next year. The commission warned it may use its monopoly busting powers to force an opening of the market.

The EU's Competition Commissioner Karel van Miert told journalists he refused to sign a declaration which would have blocked him from using the commission's anti-trust powers. EU officials estimate opening the market tooperators of alternative networks could slash costs to consumers.

Thursday's decision is the latest step in EU plans to bring free competition into its telecommunications industry, which is dominated by state-run monopolies in many nations.