Sack Bonfield, says Institute of Directors chief

Jim Norton calls for Bonfield's head, as BT's troubles mount
Written by Jane Wakefield, Contributor

BT's Internet woes continue Thursday as head of e-business at the Institute of Directors Jim Norton calls for chairman Sir Peter Bonfield to be sacked.

It comes at the end of a day when both Microsoft and Colt Telecom launch stinging attacks on the telco for its rollout of ADSL and local loop unbundling.

Norton is equally scathing of BT's handling of both the narrowband and broadband access markets and agrees it is time Bonfield resigned. "He has lost the plot," he says.

Norton sees no reason why the UK should be so far behind when other European countries like Denmark had ADSL rolled out a year ago. He believes that fixed line Internet services are in danger of losing out to mobile unless BT gets it act together. "If BT doesn't get ADSL sorted people will leave the fixed network in droves and turn to 3G," he says.

He is not much happier with Oftel, who he accuses of being far too lenient on the telco. "The timetable set for unbundling is just not challenging enough for BT," he claims.

A BT spokesman was quick to defend the BT chairman, claiming shareholders are more than happy with his performance. "Everyone is entitled to their opinion but there is clearly a lot of support for him in the City. BT is currently going through a transformation," he says.

Norton disagrees claiming the City abandoned Bonfield when the MCI WorldCom deal fell through. "I feel quite sorry for him [Bonfield]. The City bullied BT over the deal and then abandoned it. Bonfield never recovered from losing the MCI deal."

He has some advice for the beleagured telco. ""BT needs to get ADSL out fast, it need to get hold of some fixed wireless licenses and focus on CellNet because the future lies in mobility."

BT meanwhile accuses rivals of "huffing and puffing". "The market is getting more and more competitive and telcos are trying to get advantage over one another by having a pop at BT," says a BT spokesman. He claims critics like WorldCom have been hypocritical. "WorldCom is criticising the slowness of BT over unmetered but all the while it is raking it in on the pence per minute deal."

The spokesman also lays down a challenge to Microsoft over its criticism that BT is holding back the broadband revolution. "Microsoft isn't short of a few bob. Why don't they come in and put some money into broadband Britain?"

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