22 September 2000

David Edmonds, the beleaguered director-general of Britain's independent telecommunications regulator Oftel, conceded yesterday that he should have acted “tougher and sooner” in challenging dominant telecoms operator BT.

Edmonds is facing a rising tide of criticism from all quarters – but especially from three US high-speed internet access providers who earlier this month pulled out of the UK charging the watchdog with “bungling” and inaction against BT’s alleged stifling of internet growth [WAMN: 19-Sep-00].

Insiders say he has lost the confidence of senior government figures and is under increasing pressure to resign. A senior Treasury official said that Oftel is now a victim of "regulatory capture" - implying it was now dictated to by the still powerful former state monopoly.

Yesterday the attack on Edmonds was intensified by a highly placed EC official. "The UK has relegated itself from the premier league [of EU telecoms regulation] to the relegation zone of the second division,” accused Olli Rehn, head of cabinet for the European information commissioner. “Things have moved quite fast in other member countries; the UK was in the vanguard of telecoms liberalisation but has slipped substantially in recent years."

Government ministers are eventually likely to replace Oftel with a single authority, Ofcom, whose remit will cover telecommunications, broadcasting and the internet.

News source: Financial Times