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Telcos welcome Oftel's heavy hand

Can we expect more punishment beatings?

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There's been a mixed response to Oftel's intervention in the row over local loop compensation payments and service level agreements.

Yesterday, the regulator issued a consultation document detailing a series of proposals concerning expectations about service level guarantees - and penalties if these are not kept.

Many have interpreted this latest offering from Oftel as a sign that the winged watchdog is getting tough with BT.

No so, said BT spinmeisters, who played down the announcement. It's within our expectations, they said. Far from being punitive, we welcome this, they said. End of story.

Unfortunately, that response didn't quite chime with what Ian Morfett, BT's director of regulatory affairs, said.

Far from remaining calm, it appears Mr Morfett was irritated by the tone of the announcement, according to Reuters.

And in the FT Mr Morfett suggested that Oftel had already made up its mind and that there would be little room for consultation. Either way, he described Oftel's intervention as "heavy handed".

While BT struggles to find the same hymn sheet from which to sing, its rivals have viewed yesterday's intervention as a small victory.

"We're delighted with this," Richard Greco, chief exec of Bulldog Communications, told The Register.

"It is a giant step forward. The introduction of service level agreements is extremely positive and a sign that Oftel is becoming more and more proactive."

And on the question of compensation payments, he said: "BT did offer damages but these were wholly unacceptable."

Which suggests that Oftel has sided with the telcos on this issue at least.

And in a statement Energis said: "Energis welcomes Oftel's proposals to introduce formal service level commitments into the contracts for the provision of unbundled local loops and associated facilities such as co-location.

"Together with the proposed compensation payments for non-delivery within the defined time-scales, these changes should give BT a greater incentive to act in a timely way to provide services to other operators.

"In this respect, we can at least start to compete on an equal footing allowing us to guarantee a high quality of service to our customers," it said.

So, the industry seems happy and BT is/isn't depending on who you talk to.

However, one crucial issue seems to have been missed. Why has it taken so long to introduce these measures? Why?

Because the regulatory process is culpable for the failure of unbundling to gather any momentum. After all, the facts speak for themselves. Only 170 lines have been unbundled so far.

Something to be proud of. No? ®

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