Telecomms watchdog Don Cruickshank shocked the industry this morning when he announced he is to step down as director general of Oftel when his contract expires in March.
Cruickshank, who was appointed five years ago by a Tory administration, said he wanted to divide more of his time between public and private sector activities. He told journalists at a packed snap press conference that he came to the decision last Christmas and revealed his plans to ministers after the general election in May.
As a regulator with sole responsibility for ensuring fair competition in the telecomms industry, he said he felt alone in the role and believed that five years was a long enough stint. He said he had no specific plans for his future for the time being.
?I want to make it clear that there has been no falling out [with the government] over policy. This is me in particular taking a view of what I want to do in the future,? he said.
The news comes days after Cruickshank published his response to the government?s review of utility regulators. In it he said he wanted a committee of regulators with equal rights to work with him, rather than holding sole responsibility. He also called for a change in the 13-year old Telecommunications Act to take into account proposals set out in the new Competition Bill.
Cruickshank's departure is likely to speed the government in establishing an Office of Communications, Ofcom, which would be responsible for overseeing telecomms as well as broadcast content on the Internet or television. This will address the convergence of the two industries in consumer and business markets.
Cruickshank's work is likely to be remembered favourably by the newer telecomms players. During his time he has taken BT to task on many occasions over issues such as tariffs and recently its lateness in designing a competitive package to link schools to the Internet.
A BT spokesperson said: ?We?ve not always seen eye to eye but we are convinced that in his time he has made lots of improvements.? He said BT agrees with Cruickshank that the industry would be better served by a panel of regulators but would not be drawn on suggesting what Oftel should look like after March.
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