Ofcom board to take heat out of relationship with BT

The government believes that the appointment of a board of executives to run Ofcom will 'depersonalise' the relationship between BT and the regulator, and thereby improve its performance.

The government believes that the appointment of a board of executives to run Ofcom will 'depersonalise' the relationship between BT and the regulator, and thereby improve its performance.

The current director general of Oftel, David Edmonds, is seen as the figurehead of telecoms regulation in this country, and often comes in for personal criticism. But e-minister Patricia Hewitt believes Ofcom - which will be up and running in 2003 - will turn that round. Speaking exclusively to silicon.com in this week's Agenda Setters interview, she said: "The board will know how to avoid getting into a very personalised and often confrontational relationship between the regulator and the incumbent... that has quite often been damaging and detracting in the past." But the minister also defended Oftel, saying it is not possible to solve complex issues such as unbundling the local loop overnight. Oftel changed the licence conditions for BT in order to create competition in higher bandwidth services to align itself with European Commission directives. In practical terms it set the legal framework for operators to use their own DSL technology and thus provide high-speed internet access and video on demand. The intention was to improve the conditions for the consumer, encouraging better services and lowers prices. However, Oftel later admitted it should have intervened in local loop unbundling sooner than it did. Hewitt stressed that the new communications super regulator will have the specific powers required to open up the local loop to competition, and that the board set-up will not slow the pace of change.