EU Ceases Investigation on Microsoft’s Cable TV Actions

Following a Commission investigation by the European Union (EU), Redmond-based Microsoft has agreed not to influence technology decisions of European digital cable operators.

Last year, Microsoft already agreed to reduce its joint controlling position in UK cable TV operator Telewest to a simple minority interest.

However, apparently the EU was not totally satisfied and decided to examine Microsoft’s strategic investments also in other leading European broadband cable operators: Dutch-based UPC, NTL of Britain and TV Cabo of Portugal. In two of these companies (UPC and NTL), the investment was accompanied by the setting up of a joint Technology Board that made binding recommendations as to the technology decisions of the cable company.

The EU announced today in that the investigation will be closed now that Microsoft and its strategic allies have agreed to abolish or change their so-called “Technology Boards”.

In order to avoid discussions on the status and powers of these Technology Boards, Microsoft agreed with one cable operator to abolish the Technology Board completely and with the other cable operator to change the Technology Board into an Industry Technology Forum that will be equally open for competing suppliers of set-top box technology.

In a statement issued today in Brussels, the Commission made it clear that it does not want to prevent any company from buying the new Microsoft products for digital interactive television, but wants to make sure that new technologies are brought to the consumers on fair and equal terms.

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