Don Cruickshank hounding BT for years. Isn't it about Oftel was given a hand, in the shape of an updated telecoms Act?
Don Cruickshank is the overworked telecommunications watchdog (Oftel). He's the man who makes recommendations about our beloved BT not only as a telecommunications body but as a monopoly business that could easily flatten the competition, if it was allowed. He's there to make sure a level playing field is available for BT's competitors and for ensuring we, the customer, get the best deal possible.
Broadcast transmission also falls under Oftel's remit and as you can imagine, Cruickshank has got a lot of work to do, particularly now the web has blurred the borders between broadcast and downloaded. Ask AOL; less than three years ago it was an internet service provider, now it is focusing on becoming a media provider with masses of on-line video, audio and other forms of multimedia to tantalise its ever demanding customer base.
With all this blurring its no wonder our telecoms watchdog has decided its time to abolish his job and get in a team of mini Cruickshank's who can offer a better service to the consumers to cope with the changing face of the multimedia and the Internet.
In a press release, Cruickshank talks about "responsibility for social policy" falling under parliament's remit, and "wide ranging proposals" which would change the way industry regulation operates. Hang on a minute Don!
For the last four years Cruickshank has been at BTs heels nipping away when its boots have been a bit tight. It was he who put a stop to BT's "Winback" campaign to regain customers who had left to join the cable companies. BT told Oftel it was doing an ad that would encourage people without phones to get hooked up, but instead it turned out to be a deliberate ploy to steal customers away from the cable companies. Cruickshank was swift in his condemnation, though, as always, his rebuttal carried a level of wisdom even Solomon would have been proud of.
Imagine the same scenario if BT was being watched by a team of procrastinating politicians. For a start there would have had to have been a meeting before any decision was made which would have effectively bought BT another day or so of advertising (at the cable company's expense) and if a decision could not be found, there would have been more meetings (at the cable company's expense) and more meetings ...
Cruickashank's principle concerns seem to be: a) He's not up to the job because its moving so fast; and, b) The 1984 Telecommunications Act (which is where he gets most of his powers) is out of date. Well, things are moving fast, but let's not get carried away here. The Telecommunications Act has been out of date since, at least 1985, but Cruickshank's doing a fine job.
Oftel's director general is snowed under and, no doubt, feeling a little insecure as the realities of the 21st Century loom. But he has done a marvellous job so far in keeping a healthy competitive spirit in the telecoms market as well as managing to keep consumers happy by forcing BT to make price cuts where appropriate and investments where necessary.
I say give the man a holiday, update the Telecommunications Act and keep politicians as far away from the net, the TV and any other form of communication as possible. Britain seems to be one of the few countries in the world that is able to manage the advent of the new era without resorting to generalist laws laid down by over-sensitive politicians. Let's keep it that way.
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