January 1, 1998 is the date when voice telephony is fully liberalized in most European countries. The process of privatization and liberalization has been uneven across Europe; actively embraced by countries such as the U. K., Sweden, and Finland, while opposed in others. The role of the European Commission which uses its powers under the single market to push recalcitrant operators and countries is key. No two countries in Europe are following the exact same path, which makes the Commission's role difficult; it is unclear to what extent rules interconnection, access, and universal service funding should be identical. New entrants in country markets include other incumbent operators as well as other utilities; alliances are forming among many participants. The central issue is the degree to which the marketplace will be allowed to function, rather than forced to compete, through politics.