Media Convergence: UK Regulator Pats Own Back

16 July 2007

LONDON: In its annual report published Friday, UK media and telecoms regulator Ofcom is in carnival spieler mode, enthusiastically hyping its own role and importance in Britain's headlong rush to media convergence.

Lest anyone think the regulator might be overwhelmed by the current telecoms and media maelstrom, Ofcom chairman Lord David Currie of Marylebone was eager to reassure doubters that its hand on the tiller remains resolute.

Since its formation three years ago under the Comunications Act of 2003, Ofcom's role in wholesale broadband regulation had been "critical" to the roll-out of Local Loop Unbundling, Curry said.

LLU is the process by which former state-owned monopoly BT is forced to allow rival telcos access to the connections from its local phone exchanges to a customer's home or place of business.

Such connections vaulted the two million hurdle this year: "A good regulatory framework," declared His Lordship, "can help promote the competition that drives these developments."

Ofcom ceo Ed Richards took up the refrain. Convergence, he said, is now a reality with consumers able to buy a bundle of landline, mobile, TV and broadband services from a single provider.

"We can make phone calls over the internet, listen to the radio on digital television, watch TV programmes on-demand over broadband and download video content to mobile phones," he gushed.

"We can even redirect our favourite TV show to any place in the world from our home set-top box.

"For consumers, convergence means increased choice, lower prices, greater flexibility and personal control," Richards continued.

"Ofcom believes that the interests of citizens and consumers are best served by regulating for convergence, by promoting competition and taking measures where necessary to secure the broader public interest."

But what about business consumers? Are they taking second place to Joe Public? Not so, assured Currie.

"Ofcom has always been clear that the consumer of communications services, for whose interest we have statutory responsibility, is not just the residential but also the business consumer.

"Modern, efficient communications are an essential part of the infrastructure underpinning the competitiveness of Britain's firms and new technology more widely."

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff