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Only CIOs can put a stop to sloppy telecoms

Storm the board, says Easynet head
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

Storm the board, says Easynet head

CIOs must get themselves onto the board - or consign their companies to shabby telecoms service for ever, Easynet's CEO has said.

David Rowe, boss of the ISP recently acquired by BSkyB, said the rash of new entrants into the market and the controversy that surrounded them, has left enterprises somewhat jaded with suppliers.

He said: "I hesitate to say it but sometimes people get what they deserve. They listen to the cheapest vendor and assume that everything will work just fine because it's telecoms. It's like people who go to a garage and say 'sell me a car. I want the cheapest one. No, cheaper. Cheaper still'. And then they're surprised when it all falls apart."

And the root of the problem? According to Rowe: "It happens because IT directors still aren't on boards."

Research agrees. According to the National Computing Centre, nearly four out of five companies have someone on the board looking after IT. However, the number of 'pure' IT directors - who only have responsibility for tech - has fallen over the last five years from 27 per cent to 21 per cent, while on 58 per cent of boards IT is represented by a "director of IT and other areas". A 2005 report found that just one in 14 big companies has put their CIO on the board.

Buyers' naivety is not entirely at fault, said Rowe, adding some new telecoms players have also messed up. Carphone Warehouse's entrance into broadband, for instance, was "spectacularly poorly thought through - it's a case of people thinking it's not hard to do telecoms".

Easynet's new owner BSkyB which bought the ISP for £211m, is also trying its hand at consumer broadband.

Easynet's new overlords have apparently given the ISP a boost. Rowe told silicon.com: "We'd reached a glass ceiling. Our finances weren't strong enough. We have the credibility now to bid for larger companies and the size of companies in the pipeline is much bigger."

Rowe added that the relationship with Sky has not all been plain-sailing, though the broadcaster has thrown its weight behind the enterprise vendor. "The next three to five years we're going to grow the business and see where it's going. Who knows where it will go? Three to five years is a lifetime times two in this industry."

VoIP is definitely on the horizon for the company - being part of a quad-play company is not, Rowe said - because there's not enough crossover between buying service. Choosing a broadband supplier is a family decision while with mobile it's a personal one. Nevertheless, the UK saw the launch of its first quad-play service yesterday, as Virgin Mobile, NTL and Telewest officially relaunched under the brand-name Virgin Media.

BSkyB CEO James Murdoch recently described quad-play as an "uncomfortable marriage", adding: "Our existing partnerships with network operators work very well for us... we are not interested in being a mobile network operator."

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