A European Commission (EC) plan to end the stranglehold that former telecommunications monopolies hold over the local loop will lead to major changes, European Information Society commissioner Erkki Liikanen said yesterday.

The Commissioner said "During the next six months, the situation for consumers will change dramatically, because competition will grow rapidly."

Deadline The Commission recommendation urges EU countries to require their former telecom monopolies to end their exclusive control over the local loop by December 31, 2000. BT's plans to unbundle the local loop were delayed until July, according to Oftel. The local loop refers to the last segment of a communications network that brings a voice, data or video transmission from the central office switch, to the individual home or office.

Under the terms of the recommendation, EU countries must ensure full unbundled access to the copper local-loop of incumbents under "transparent, cost-oriented and non-discriminatory conditions", according to Liikanen. This will give new entrants access to the local loop to deploy all types of advanced services to users, including new broad band multimedia services, according to the Commission.

By opening the local loop to competition, the recommendation is designed to give smaller service providers access to the end-user consumer. This will lead to increased competition, and bring prices down to the level necessary to accelerate the take-up of the Internet and electronic commerce, according to the Commission.