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No can do, say BT; come off it, barks watchdog

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David Edmonds, head of watchdog Oftel, has finally pricked the BT hot-air balloon and said there is no reason why unmetered Internet access should not be made immediately available. He expects to see data calls charged at lower rates than voice calls and sees no reason for continued delay. BT's attitude to the Internet - summed up by its head's claim last week that poor people would have to go to night classes to get on the Web - has been strongly criticised by the IT press for months, but it was only after Tony Blair's ecommerce evangelising and a national newspaper campaign that the Oftel/BT stalemate started to shift. Half-hearted attempts by BT to smooth over the situation got Tony Blair on side, but Edmonds' comments to The Times newspaper yesterday demonstrate that Oftel is not satisfied with the giant's efforts. Preceding his comments with the unique Oftel disclaimer that competition is the most effective way of arriving at the end result, Edmonds recognised that BT is still effectively a monopoly. "Oftel has a role to ensure that BT is bound by the laws of fair trading," he remarked, before saying that the present price structure was based on out-of-date historical factors. Edmonds then said there was no reason why BT could not introduce unmetered Internet calls immediately. Expect a surprise announcement/technological breakthrough from BT soon. ®

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