BT calls meeting to answer its critics

BT will answer its critics in a meeting Monday

BT has called a meeting Monday to answer its critics as it defends its ADSL and Internet strategies at a round table meeting in London.

Members of the press have been invited to the discussion with BT's managing director of BT's network Paul Reynolds and marketing director Angus Porter. The discussion is expected, according to a BT spokesman, to be "lively".

BT has come in for heavy criticism from users, government and industry for stifling the development of the Internet in the UK. Accusations range from charging too much to get online, deliberately slowing down the rollout of broadband technology and an out-of-touch attitude to the Net from its directors.

Most commentators believe fair competition in the UK Internet market will only come when the local loop is unbundled -- giving other operators access to BT's network -- which will bring an end to BT's dominance of the last mile of copper. Even on this point, BT has clashed with the government. At an EU summit in Lisbon, Blair signed up to a December 2000 deadline for European unbundling. BT claims it is not possible in the UK until July 2001.

So, given the chance what would ISPs, businesses and users ask BT? "I would simply ask why," says marketing director of the UK's first unmetered ISP X-stream. "Why are you inhibiting the growth of the Internet, why are you charging crazy prices for Surftime, why are you not unbundling the local loop faster and why are you making it difficult for ISPs to launch 0800 services."

David Harrington, director general of the Telecommunication Managers Association thinks it is time BT works with the industry rather than against it. "I would ask what they intend to do to positively encourage fair competition," he says. "At the moment they are discouraging interconnect agreements and are reluctant to work with people they see as competitors."

Jane Wakefield will attend the meeting for ZDNet. Richard Barry will speak to Angus Porter Friday in an Eye2Eye interview to be published Monday, which also promises to be "lively". ZDNet asked to interview BT's CEO Peter Bonfield, this was refused and Porter will take his place.

BT is simply making excuses, according to Guy Kewney.