Oftel accused of bias at European summit

Fixed line phone company INMS warned the European Commission that it cannot assume regulators will be independent

The UK's telecoms watchdog, Oftel, was this week accused of bias by David Stanfield, director of regulatory affairs at fixed line phone company INMS.

Speaking at a public hearing on the future of telecom rules being held in Brussels, Stanfield warned the European Commission that it cannot assume regulators will be independent. The Commission is currently compiling five new directives on telecom rules in what is widely seen as a significant shake-up of the market.

In an unprecedented attack on the watchdog, Stanfield suggested that Oftel is in cahoots with the government. "In the UK, the regulator is has not got the independence it needs to carry out its duties," he claimed. "The Commission must ensure that there is no link between national regulatory authorities and ministries. Ministries have a habit of doing deals with operators."

Oftel rejected the charges, claiming it has total autonomy. "Oftel is perfectly satisfied that it has the independence from government necessary to carry out its duties," a spokesman told ZDNet. "More importantly, this was fully recognised by the European Commission last November in its Fifth Implementation Report."

This report states: "The Office of Telecommunications, established under the Telecommunications Act of 1984, is widely respected as an experienced and independent regulator."

Oftel is not attending the public hearing, "We are not going but there will be a representative from the DTI," the spokesman said.

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