AMSTERDAM, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Cable TV operators in the Netherlands should not be allowed to spread the cost of upgrading networks across all users, the Dutch parliament said on Thursday, asking the Economics Minister for stricter controls.
Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst should demand a much harder line by national telecoms watchdog OPTA for the nation's cable operators, which have raised their prices sharply in recent years, according to a motion supported by all political parties.
OPTA said on Wednesday it would allow cable carriers to charge all subscribers for the costs of upgrading to digital TV.
This decision was considered too lax by the MPs, who said consumers should not be paying more money for the same basic TV service just because of a different distribution technology.
Dutch antitrust watchdog NMa, separately on Wednesday, said that cable companies UPC and Casema did not charge excessive tariffs in recent years nor abuse their position of power.
Cable operators on Wednesday applauded the outcome of the NMa investigation and said it had created a level of confidence that would allow it to develop its business further and introduce new services.
But MPs were angered by the most recent cable TV price hikes, which fell outside the scope of the investigation.
Brinkhorst said in reaction that he could not enforce single decisions from the independent watchdog, his spokeswoman said. "He doesn't have the authority," she said.
The motion nevertheless demanded that Brinkhorst should put maximum pressure on OPTA to withdraw its proposal and issue a new one.
OPTA declined to comment. It had already sent a letter to the European Commission on Thursday asking for permission to set maximum tariffs for basic TV services in the Netherlands, while allowing operators to charge all subscribers for network upgrades.
UPC, owned by U.S.-based Liberty Global (LBTYA), has said it will invest 300 million euros ($361.1 million) in an upgrade to digital television in the Dutch market. UPC is Europe's biggest cable TV carrier and the leading Dutch carrier with 2.3 million subscribers.
>>Brinkhorst said in reaction that he could not enforce single decisions from the independent watchdog, his spokeswoman said. .. The motion nevertheless demanded that Brinkhorst should put maximum pressure on OPTA to withdraw its proposal and issue a new one. <<
That accurately describes the incomptence of a typical MoP in that country: asking the minister to change a decision of an authority that, by law, is required to be immune from all pressure from the government. Also on Thursday, the same parliament asked another minister to give an african football player Dutch citizenship so he could play in the national team, apparently not aware that that is the government's exclusive prerogative.