Telecoms watchdog Oftel has come under fire from the UK internet industry, for failing to ensure competition in the UK web access market.
The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), the industry's self-regulatory body in the UK, has accused Oftel of failing to ensure UK consumers have true unmetered internet access by misplacing confidence in BT.
ISPA is concerned by Oftel's position regarding BT's wholesale unmetered internet plans. Oftel issued a direction in May requiring BT to provide an unmetered wholesale product to other operators, enabling other ISPs and operators to have access to the telco's local network on a wholesale basis.
On Wednesday David Edmonds, Oftel's director general, said that BT has offered this service, known as FRIACO (Flat Rate Internet Access Call Origination), from the start of June, with a revised version known as FRIACO hybrid from 3 August and is confident that the product provides a "sound basis" to promote competition in unmetered internet access.
However, ISPA believes Oftel is mistaken in its assertion that effective competition can be delivered and said Edmond's confidence is misplaced.
"Mr Edmonds is sadly misinformed if he believes that BT's delayed and diluted unmetered plans will allow full and fair competition in the UK internet access market," said Laurence Blackall, an ISPA council member.
Oftel announced in May that it had appointed a technical expert committee to look into the issues of unmetered internet access, the findings of which were to be reported in June. ISPA has urged Oftel to provide the findings from this committee.
"We need Oftel to publish the findings of its technical committee as a matter of great urgency. We would also urge Mr Edmonds to look very carefully at the reality of BT's activities in the field before making any further judgement about their willingness to allow true competition in this area," Blackall said.
A spokeswoman for Oftel said it understands the need to publish the findings and said it will try to do so as soon as possible. "We can't say exactly when the findings will be published, but it should be within the next two weeks."
Established in 1995 ISPA is a self-regulating organisation representing the UK internet industry. It has argued for self-regulation to avoid the hindrance of unnecessary legislation and has developed a Code of Practice for ISPs, which addresses service quality.
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