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Govt slags off Oftel – between the lines

Effective competition - not

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Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers delivered a a vote of no confidence in the telecoms regulator yesterday following the announcement of the shake up of the communications industry and the creation of a new super regulator, Ofcom.

In a statement Byers said: "We now live and work in a new world where TV, telecoms and the
Internet are no longer separate. These proposals illustrate how we can together take advantage of the new opportunities that are opening up for us all.

"This lighter touch system of media and communications regulation reflects the Government's vision of industrial policy based on skills, innovation and enterprise.

"In particular the proposed reforms of the telecoms sector will offer regulatory stability combined with effective competition providing a spur for firms to innovate, increase productivity and compete in a global market place."

That last sentence is another body blow to an already feeble regulator that has consistently failed to serve the industry.

"...the proposed reforms of the telecoms sector will offer regulatory stability combined with effective competition" - why would Byers say this if the telecoms sector had not been offered "regulatory stability combined with effective competition".

In effect, Byers is saying that the telecoms sector has not had regulatory stability and effective competition.

To single out Oftel - it's clear what Byers thinks of Oftel and its cosy relationship with BT.

A spokeswoman for the winged watchdog refused to be drawn on the criticisms. She insisted: "Oftel believes it has done - and continues to do - a good job of regulating the telecoms industry."

Well, once again we find Oftel is out of touch and on its own.

It's clear there is no place for Oftel as Britain strives to be at the "cutting edge of the world-wide revolution in communications", as Culture Secretary Chris Smith, said yesterday.

The concern now is that Byers' statement isolates Oftel still further, making it even more of a lame duck outfit than before. ®

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