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Brown Net cuts story is false

He won't cut charges -- but will he e-tax .com companies?

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Chancellor Gordon Brown is not about to "cut internet costs", as reported today by the FT, The Register can confirm. Nor will he announce plans to "halve the cost of Internet access by the end of 2002", not unless what has already been agreed and is in the public domain can be "announced". The FT may have led with the large headline on its front page, but it simply doesn't correspond with what the chancellor will actually say tonight when he delivers this much-talked about speech. What he's expected to say is that high Net access costs are inhibiting Britain's e-conomy. He'll call for the unbundling of the local loop (ULL) to increase competition -- something that is happening already, although not before time. He'll echo OFTEL's hopes that ULL can be brought forward from the current absolute deadline of July 2001 -- but then OFTEL's always said that. He'll also say how competition has already helped bring down the cost of Net access, and he'll quote TeleWest's launch on Monday of its unmetered access package. Interestingly, he won't crow about how it has been the Government's policy to let competition drive down the cost of Net access -- something which Downing Street could argue has worked and is working. But, he will not say anything about how he will cut the cost of Net access -- that is, as long as he sticks to the text of his speech. He could pull a rabbit out a hat and announce something none of has been expecting... but then again. The truth is, Gordon Brown will simply present an overview of the Net access debate and lay out the timetable for further telco deregulation as already agreed by OFTEL. He'll throw in a fair lashing of rhetoric about how Britain will be a wired world beater -- how the future is "e-shaped" -- but that's all. There's little doubt that Gordon Brown's intervention will do wonders for those campaigning to introduce unmetered Net access in Britain. But to presume that a quick chat yesterday with OFTEL's head honcho, Dave Edmonds, now makes the chancellor the leading advocate of British Net users is simply laughable. And in light of the publicity the story received today -- and will receive tomorrow in the dailies -- Gordon Brown's spinmeisters have done a cracking job. But while people (wrongly) slap him on the back for "saying" that he'll cut the cost of Net access, a true champion of the cause, spare a moment for all those who have campaigned, lobbied, negotiated and fought so their way to the current position. Come on Gordon, credit where credit's due. Unfortunately, you ain't due any -- not for this, anyway. ® Related Stories Brown to slash Net charges

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