The near 100-year monopoly in the Kingston-upon-Hull telecomms market will be ended if proposals from telecomms watchdog Oftel are accepted.
In a document entitled 'Delivering the benefits of the information age to customers in Hull', Oftel accuses the district of trailing behind in the advanced telecomms world and is intent in opening the market to competing suppliers. By an accident of history, Kingston Communications controls this market.
According to Don Cruickshank, the outgoing director general of Oftel, Hull has been isolated from the ?new world of communications?, and the ?people and businesses of Hull need to be given the same opportunities and the same choice in telecomms services as they are in the rest of the UK?.
Telecomms in the Hull area has a unique history. When the private sector telecomms companies were nationalised by the government in 1911, Hull?s local authority owned telephone system - set up in 1902 - was allowed to remain independent. This special position has been maintained since then, even after BT was privatised in 1984. In 1987 Kingston Communications PLC was formed and licences were issued to Kingston and Hull City Council as joint licensees.
Kingston Communications has enjoyed a near-monopoly of the local market where BT is prevented from operating. Oftel is determined to introduce competition into the area.
Among Cruickshank's proposals are moves to ensure Kingston interconnects fairly with other operators, opening Kingston?s financial accounts, and to give other companies a chance to offer services.
Kingston was in the news last September when it axed 20 per cent of its staff. In July it claimed it was a victim of a ?misguided? and ?mischievous? campaign to harm the company. The firm was alleged to have cross-subsidised an ailing subsidiary with its successful telecomms business. Oftel is investigating the allegations.
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