Spain’s Battered ISPs Join Forces

Faced with telecommunications giants offering free Net
access, Spain’s smaller ISPs are crying “unfair competition” and
coordinating a common strategy for survival.

In the aftermath of free Internet access offers by the major
telecommunications companies in June, many of the country’s 960 registered
ISPs have claimed a threat to their livelihood. They now call national
meetings to adopt a united stance.

In the Second Meeting of Spanish Internet Providers this month, companies
accused the major telecoms of dumping and unfair competition. The
Asociación de Internautas later petitioned Spain’s
Telecommunications Market Commission (CMT) to investigate the
quality of “free” Internet services.

Falling short of forming an alternative network to compete with major
providers like Telefónica, Retevision, and British Telecom, the
independent ISPs have approved the creation of a Central Buyer to defend
their common interests.

This Central Buyer would take on “the judicial function of an Economic
Interest Group while maintaining the total independence of all the member
companies and allowing operation with minimal costs,” stated Juan Carlos M.
Coll of the Internet Society’s Andalusian chapter.

“Participation in the
Central Buyer wouldn’t be incompatible with belonging to existing
associations and groups and could be the embryo of a something much bigger.”

The idea reportedly has support from the the European Union and Spanish
public entities.

Despite the great fragmentation of the Spanish ISP sector, the country’s
major operators are winning customers with “free” access to their
infrastructure. Many of Spain’s nearly three million netizens access the
Net through networks like Telefonica’s Infovia Plus, Retevision’s Retenet,
and British Telecom’s Interpista.

“By producing an oligopoly situation in the ISP sector, where the big
companies offer zero connectivity charges and control technology and
quality of service, the worse the quality of their services the greater
their profit,” stated Don Vmctor Domingo Prieto, president of the
Asociación de Internautas. “Given this low quality, users will be forced to
stay online longer, thus raising revenue by way of phone and connection
costs.”

Last week, the association formally denounced the major operators before
the CMT.

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