The telecommunications sector consists of two distinct parts: the infrastructure network and the services carried over the network on the other. The name that has been given to the "last mile" in the network, which allows subscribers to use the telecommunications services, is referred to as the "local loop", the "copper wire or wireless links between the subscriber's phone and the exchange to which they are connected". The advent of the new xDSL technologies offers the possibility to provide multiple services over the same pair of copper wires: this is referred to as "bundling". Arguing that the possibility to bundle services beyond the universal service (which is not yet open to compet ition), new operators are calling for "offerings to be unbundled on the local loop".
Within the EU, and most of the industrialised countries, access to the incumbents' local loop is governed by a widely diverging regulatory environment. An EU Regulation on local loop unbundling came into force on 2 January 2001, requiring incumbent operators throughout the EU to offer unbundled access to their local loops on reasonable request. Following, according to the Commission, slow progress in this process, it published a report on its sector enquiry and held an open consultation. The Commission's Competition Directorate-General on 8 July 2002 held a public hearing to fully analyse the remaining difficulties in the implementation of unbundling the local loop and the progress of competition in the provision of broadband access and services.