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Update: Oftel fails the UK - Reports

Oftel makes the headlines again as pressure mounts on the regulator to do something about BT's Internet stranglehold
Written by Richard Barry, Contributor

According to Friday's FT, a senior advisor to Europe's e-commerce commissioner has warned that Britain has relegated itself from the premier league of European telecoms regulation and is now lagging behind other European nations, including France.

It said Oftel had lost the confidence of senior members of the government and European Commission who believe it has allowed British Telecommunications to stifle Internet growth.

The report quotes Olli Rehn, head of cabinet for Erkki Liikanen, European information commissioner, saying that while things had moved swiftly in other European countries the UK had failed to keep up.

Rehn's comments may provoke déjà vu among those following the fortunes of the embattled watchdog. Earlier this week, David Edmonds, Oftel's director general, said of the local loop process: "Clearly with hindsight, I would have liked to have drawn up proposals before now. If I plead guilty to anything it is that we might have stuck our oar in harder, sooner."

Despite increasingly regular criticism of the way Oftel has managed BT's delivery of cheap Internet access in the UK, and in particular the rows over unbundling the local loop, the regulator believes Rehn's comments are unfair.

"These are allegations that we counter strongly," said an Oftel spokeswoman Friday morning.

BT was not available for comment at time of posting.

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