Prying Open Europe's Phone Monopolies
Sprint Corp.'s $4.2 billion alliance with France Telecom and Deutsche Bundespost Telekom is a chance for the U.S. to pry open Europe's biggest remaining telecommunications monopolies. Without Sprint lr an equally fleet-footed U.S. partner, the French and the Germans have little chance of competing globally. But to gain access to the U.S. market, these government-owned systems must agree to end their monopolies at home.
British Telecom's $5 billion investment in MCI Communications Corp. is no problem, because the British market is wide open. Not so Germany and France. Without reciprocity, the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Dept. should stop this deal.
This is a perfect moment for the U.S. to call for reciprocity. Europe is currently rethinking its telecommunications order. A report on the coming so-called Information Society, which is to be debated at the European summit in Corfu, Greece, on June 24 proposes speeding up deregulation and creating a pan-European regulatory body akin to the FCC. Asking for reciprocity in the Sprint deal would be good timing for all involved.