Watchdog snaps at BT's heels

Obstacles to development of latest telecoms services being investigated

Oftel, the UK telecoms regulator, is to investigate the take-up of high speed Internet access, video-on-demand and videophones among the great British public. Launching its latest consultation process, the watchdog organisation said it wants to discover if there is a latent demand for such services and, if so, whether there are any obstacles to those services being launched. It will, almost certainly, come to the conclusion that yes, there is a demand for the technology, and yes, there are obstacles. Of course, British Telecom wouldn't like to be thought of as an obstacle (after all, who would), but it appears this latest round of consultation is a thinly veiled attempt at pre-empting any monopoly situation the telecoms giant might find itself in the near future. Oftel's director general, David Edmonds, fired a shot across BT's bows. "If we identify any obstacles to the delivery of these services we shall consider regulatory action to remove them," he said. "I believe that competition is the best way to satisfy consumer needs and so I am concerned with barriers to effective competition." A tactful spokesman for BT said that the announcement raised a number of complex questions about the industry and that BT would consider its position, and respond, in due course. ®

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