News Roundup: BT in crisis

British Telecom's earnings are soaring and its share price is at an all-time high - but the company faces persistent criticism over its Internet and labour policies

British Telecommunications has several challenges on its hands as it continues to grapple with the dawn of the Internet age and changing labour conditions. The company is flying high in the City, with its share price at its highest levels ever and earnings continuing to rise at home and overseas. On the horizon, however, there looms increased competition from abroad and possible Internet-related regulation. Monday also marked the beginning of the company's first strike in 13 years as around 4,000 Communication Workers Union members protested against working conditions in call centres. BT's biggest challenge at the moment may be the threat regulatory action from Oftel, which recently heard complaints from Internet service providers after BT introduced "reduced" Internet tariffs that turned out not to necessarily be a reduction at all. Some MPs have even called for BT's breakup.

In the meantime, the telco is facing action from its own workers, who are complaining about call centre working conditions. BT is attempting to show how cyber-savvy it is with a host of new, futuristic announcements -- including gathering its Internet assets into one unit , upping Internet backbone speeds , trialling smartcards and even spinning theories the Net will make human beings better and happier .
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