Telecomms users are being canvassed by leading user associations to back a proposed complaint against high tariffs charged by European telcos.
Telco prices in Europe are "in many cases 10 times more than they are in the US", according to the Telecommunications Managers Association and local government user group Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm).
They fear that UK businesses and government bodies will become trapped in an economic backwater as ecommerce becomes too expensive for all but large, global conglomerates.
This has led both groups to request support from end users for a formal complaint they plan to make to UK telecoms regulator Oftel and the European Commission. The complaint will focus on high charges for leased lines.
Socitm president Paul Offen wrote an open letter to his members late last month. Offen asked users to "convince politicians, the public and even the telecom carriers that short-term gain will result in long-term loss".
The campaign has already won the support of Reuters, which spends #200 million a year on telecomms. Phil Sayer, the company's global communications manager, said: "This is a big issue for anybody involved in electronic commerce. It's cheaper to host Web sites in the US - so that's where all the business is going."
Any complaint, however, is certain to inspire vocal opposition from Europe's leading telcos. A BT spokesperson said: "BT operates in a very competitive market for leased lines and business telecoms. If there's a complaint we'd be happy to provide evidence to prove we offer excellent value for money."
Statistics complied by Reuters demonstrate the cost of a cross-border 300km 2mbps circuit in the US is 1,600Ecu (#1,070) a month - against 26,000Ecu (#17,400) for the same cross-border line specification within Europe.
Oftel said it would take any complaint seriously, but stressed it had no responsibility for setting prices.
See www.computingnet. co.uk for the open letter.
Dan Sabbagh is a reporter on Computing
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