UK Tech Week: Governments must be "progressive" says MCI boss

Seth Blumenfeld, president of MCI International Inc., today challenged the governments of Western Europe to be "more progressive" in deregulation and integration of communication systems.

Speaking at a keynote address to the UK Technology Week exhibition at Earl's Court, Blumenfeld said: "Economies grow where communications systems flourish... Governments should get out of play and allow market forces to take over."

Given the pace of the information revolution - 7000 new computers go online every day - the importance of open markets will, according to Blumenfeld, become even more crucial in the push to integrate IP tools and create a flourishing world economy.

Blumenfeld quoted World Bank statistics which indicate that every dollar invested in telecommunications yields three dollars for the US GDP. "Global communication systems can be a tangle of frustration. And untangling this mess is the way forward," he said. Blumenfeld envisages a global market where the distance between Internet traffic and communication networks will disappear. "Users will be given greater control at work and play. The systems will work seamlessly and invisibly." He stressed the role of telecommunications in this, enabling businesses to communicate quickly and efficiently in a world where "Geography will become history".

But Blumenfeld believes a lot of work remains before the e-business promised land is reached. The status quo is "neither seamless nor invisible" and users of the Internet and telecommunication systems are often confused . "Customers feel that they are in a fun house in a hall of mirrors" he said. He blamed service, support and financial frustrations for this and called for governments to act now.

Blumenfeld's message for large and small companies is that those who acknowledge the need for a single network will be the business winners of the future. Such a system would "level the playing field and allow small businesses to compete with global companies", he said.

For MCI itself, the path to integration has been a rocky one. A deal to create a merger with BT fell through earlier this year, due to what Blumenfeld describes as the "volatility of the US stock market". MCI has now merged with WorldCom and an announcement of how they will compete with BT, Mercury and other UK carriers is due to be made this afternoon.

WorldCom is expected to announce a £100m investment in a UK network which will target corporate customers, in line with similar moves already made by MCI/WorldCom in France and Germany.