British Telecommunications PLC, Deutsche Telekom AG, France Telecom and Belgacom SA are being investigated by the European Commission over the way four of Europe’s most influential telecommunications companies could be trying to strong-arm Internet service providers and smaller telephone companies, according to European Commission sources talking to our sister publication Network Briefing. The probe is to determine whether the telecommunications giants have been using their dominant market positions to hold back competition by preventing smaller companies from offering or supporting Internet services, reports said. Officials from British Telecom and Deutsche Telekom have confirmed that they have been contacted by the European Commission investigation and asked to provide details about various operations. However, they said the documents were seeking information about market analysis and that they contained no demands for them to change their practices. The investigation documents were sent with the broad aim of ensuring that these companies were acting on a non-discriminatory basis – that is, that they were not favoring their own Internet-related activities at the expense of third parties, a source from the European Commission told Techwire. According to reports, the investigation was launched because of the Commission’s own market observations, and was not prompted by specific complaints. Neither is the Commission investigating any Internet service providers, restricting its investigation to the four telecommunications giants because they control certain facilities to which Internet service providers need access in order to operate. The investigation is seeking details on the operators’ units active in this area, their activities, the facilities used – including leased lines – and details of competitors in their member state, European Commission sources said. The questionnaires were sent earlier this month, but the companies may seek further time to reply.