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Brown takes heat off BT

New York speech lacks a little of last week's umph

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Chancellor Gordon Brown failed to deliver the knock out punch to BT yesterday despite reports he was set to take another swipe at the monster telco for the continued high cost of Net access in Britain. Speaking in New York, he only made one highly camouflaged reference to this sensitive subject. He certainly didn't refer to "foot-dragging" or of bringing forward local loop unbundling. Instead, he made a passing reference to the cost of Net access entwined within a number of other issues. So much so, it's difficult to spot, but if you look hard enough, it's in there. "This [meaning for Britain to become the world's best environment for electronic commerce] is an agenda that will touch on every aspect of the economy, including government itself, schools, universities, new infrastructure, government and access to the Internet itself," he said. "Our competition policy is opening up the market to new players and allows existing players to benefit from new opportunities." Spot it? It's a far cry from the panic that was caused following an interview in the FT last week which suggested he was to introduce plans to speed up local loop unbundling in a bid to cut the cost of Net access. The Register still maintains that there was very little substance in this now infamous speech to have caused such market mania. But the issue is so emotive the slightest sniff of change can cause widespread hysteria, and last week is certainly proof of that. Nonetheless, BT will remain very sore about the Chancellor's intervention for a long time to come. And on the evidence of Brown's speech yesterday, BT could at least feel it has scored a partial victory over the Chancellor. It seems Brown heeded the advice of Sir Peter Bonfield by minding his own business and keeping his nose out where it wasn't wanted. ® Related stories: UK Chancellor gives BT another good kicking BT shares tumble on false Brown Net cuts story BT shares tumble on false Brown Net cuts story

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