The European Commission said late yesterday it has begun legal proceedings against five member states for not liberalising the local loop in their telecommunication networks — and the UK, surprisingly, is not one of them.

France, Ireland, the Netherlands and, for the second time, Germany and Portugal have all been accused of breaking the 15-month-old European Union law commanding member states to unbundle the local loop, otherwise known as the 'last mile' of copper from exchanges to houses and businesses.

It seems the UK's telco watchdog, Oftel, has done just enough, just in time, to avoid legal action.

These proceedings follow the action taken in December 2001, after a damning November report, against Germany, Portugal and Greece.

Two of the member states implicated in December, Portugal and Greece, have already remedied the problem, and the Commission said today it is closing these two cases.

Germany has also recently reported positive steps to remedy the situation, and the Commission said it will consider closing that case too.

"The action we have already taken has had immediate results, and I hope that national authorities can move quickly to overcome the problems that we are addressing in this latest decision on unbundling," said Erkki Liikanen, commissioner for enterprise and the information society.

"Regulators and operators have had time to implement the requirements of the EU Regulation, and there can be no more delays in opening up the local access market to competition," Liikanen said.