European Internet service providers cannot challenge their US counterparts because of the high international call prices charged by European telecomms operators.
This was the accusation made by EuroISPA, the European ISPs' trade association, at its conference on telecomms pricing for the Internet in Brussels yesterday.
The UK Socialist Euro MP for Nottingham and Leicestershire North West, Mel Read, said policy makers must allow the market for electronic commerce to develop in Europe.
"The Internet is an industry in its own right, and it is now a question of how soon people can expect to make money out of it. We must balance liberalisation and regulation so that the European market is allowed to develop, and compete with the US on equal terms," Read said.
"That is the major issue here. Telecomms prices are still considerably lower in the US than in Europe, and maybe that is something that should be addressed at the public policy level," she said.
Jim Dixon, president of EuroISPA, said a typical European ISP pays over 20 times more for intercity bandwidth than a US ISP, and pays huge monthly sums for international connectivity to "inefficient monopoly telcos".
US ISPs pay nothing for their international links, and as a result the majority of European Internet traffic is routed through the US, he said.
The consequence of this disparity in telecomms pricing is that European ISPs are smaller and financially weaker than their US counterparts.
EuroISPA was established last August when a number of EU ISP associations signed a memorandum of understanding to form a pan-European lobby for the Internet industry. EuroISPA now has 10 member associations, which makes it the largest ISP group in the world.
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