With the goal of creating a “single market” for telecom services throughout the European Union (EU), the European Commission (EC) on Tuesday published its long-awaited proposals for overhauling telecom regulation throughout the EU, including the establishment of a central, EU-wide regulatory agency that would be modeled on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The EC’s action represents the next major step in a liberalization process that started in 1998, when national telecom operators throughout the EU relinquished monopoly control of their respective markets. While admitting that the EU has since “made substantial progress by opening telecom markets to new players,” EC Telecom Commissioner Viviane Reding told a press conference on Tuesday that, “dominant telecom operators, still protected by government authorities, remain in control of critical market segments, especially of the broadband market.” To boost competition that would increase the availability of broadband and other services and reduce prices, the EC would allow the EC’s 27 national regulators to impose “functional separation” requirements on incumbent operators that hold power over critical market segments. In turn, national regulators would be permitted to order structural separation only with the consent of the European Telecom Market Authority (ETMA), a new central regulatory agency that would combine the functions of the present European Regulators Group and the European Network and Information Security Agency. Explaining the need for the EMTA, the EC said that, “with the EU telecom reform, the Commission wants to make sure that those regulators that see a need for choosing functional separation do so under a stable legal framework . . . using a consistent methodology, and taking into account regulatory experience made in other EU countries.” Asserting that “too many countries are sitting on unused radio spectrum” that could be used for broadband services, especially in rural areas, Reding also noted that the EC’s proposal includes a “new deal for radio spectrum” that is intended to improve spectrum management. The EC would also discontinue its monitoring of 10 market sectors, including local and national residential landline phone services, that are now deemed to be competitive. Contingent upon approval by the European Parliament and the EU’s 27 member states, the proposal could be enacted into law by 2009.