The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has expressed its disappointment following a meeting with Oftel regarding BT's controversial Click Internet service. Click will remain untouched when it launches next month despite complaints to the watchdog from ISPs and the industry body.
Oftel confirmed Tuesday that it has no immediate plans to interfere with BT's proposal which, says the watchdog, "is a commercial decision for BT to make." Oftel acknowledges a "wide range of concerns regarding Click from a variety of sources" and a spokesman says the investigation into alleged abuse of BT's monopoly position is "ongoing".
ISPA's chief executive, David Kennedy, says he is "disappointed" with Oftel's initial response but remains hopeful that the watchdog will take action after Click is launched. "If Oftel is unhappy with the final product," says Kennedy, "it can issue an order against it once it has been launched. That is the system."
ISPA's concerns cover an array of topics with cross subsidisation high on the list. The worry is that BT can divert funding to Click from its BT Internet service as well as encourage heavy Click users to change to BT Internet. "That gives BT a potentially unfair advantage over other ISPs," says Kennedy, "because they can target those heavy users directly once they've outgrown Click."
ISPA is also worried about accountability, saying Click provides the perfect cover for anonymous IP. Oftel disagrees and says there is only a small chance of abuse which Kennedy believes is enough reason to intervene. "During our meeting," says Kennedy, "Oftel implied that it has spoken to the Internet Watch Foundation and that the IWF is happy with the current position but that's not the case and David Kerr (IWF's chairman) will be writing to Oftel to put them in the picture." Kerr was not available for comment.
Feeling among ISPs is mixed, with some looking forward to a pitched battle with the best BT can offer and others expressing concern for smaller companies that may be flattened by the telco's offering. "It's a shame Oftel isn't acting within its remit," says Paul Myers, managing director of ISP X-Stream "Click is a clear abuse of BT's power, Oftel seems to be the only organisation that can't see it and that's going to hurt a lot of smaller ISPs."
BT was not available for comment.
In related news, Cable and Wireless last week launched a low-profile alternative to Click which its own press office admits very few people have heard of. Dubbed Internet Lite, C&W's effort has been largely disregarded by ISPs who are confused by the company's lack of advertising for the service.