BT has finally delivered to Oftel its proposals to help schools hook up to the 'information superhighway', said the telecomms watchdog today.
The announcement comes five months after the cable industry came up with similar plans, but BT said it had stuck to its promise to announce its programme by the summer, and had avoided a "kneejerk reaction". However, neither the telco nor the watchdog would reveal any details of the proposals.
The telco?s programme is in response to Oftel?s report, published in January, urging the industry to design a low cost package to link up schools to high speed networks and the Internet. The cable industry responded almost immediately with a package that offers schools unlimited Internet access for #1 per pupil per year.
By March, BT was accused by the industry of dithering over the strategy and employing delay tactics. The giant replied that it wanted to resist a kneejerk reaction, and ?to launch something durable with a price that recognises what will happen to ISDN and PSTN over time".
Today, BT said it has delivered on its promise to respond by the summer, so its proposals could be considered by Oftel before the new school year in September. Don Cruikshank, Oftel?s director general, said today: ?I want to move as quickly as possible so better services for schools are not delayed.?
Oftel?s statement today was met with surprise. Oftel did not outline BT?s proposals for schools, while a BT spokesperson declined to elaborate, saying the information was competitively sensitive. A spokesperson for the Cable Communications Association said: ?This is highly strange given we published details of our proposals in January.?
However, BT?s proposals are to be explained in Oftel?s consultative document on the issue, to be published in July.
Oftel?s January report on how the telecomms industry could improve access for schools was in response to discussions among an education taskforce headed by Cruikshank in June 1996.
BT?s proposals are not related to its pledge to the Labour party, made in 1995, that it would link up schools and colleges free to the information superhighway, in return for a Labour government lifting its ban on broadcasting services over its network. However, comments by Margaret Beckett, president of the Board of Trade, yesterday have thrown doubt over how soon the ban will be lifted (see separate story).
This bargain relates to links via broadband networks, rather than traditional infrastructure, which is the basis of today?s proposals.
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