BT has warned the UK government not to interfere with its network until July 2001 and blamed complex regulation for hindering the UK internet economy.
The stern remarks from BT chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield come hours before UK Chancellor Gordon Brown plans to tell financiers in London that he wants to accelerate the process of opening up BT's network to competition.
Brown will address what he calls the "disadvantage British businesses face" if the country's internet economy lags behind the rest of Europe. A report from researcher Durlacher this week said internet use would increase three-fold if online access was unmetered.
However, BT has hit back, saying that its Surftime package, which was announced in December, will bring unmetered surfing to the UK. But while rival Telewest launched its unmetered service this week, BT's package remains stifled by regulators.
"It has not been introduced because we are bogged down in regulatory approvals which are much more complex here than in other countries," said Bonfield.
Brown met with regulator Oftel, but not BT, this week to discuss the importance of "urgent" progress towards unbundling the telco's local loop. However, no decision was reached and the deadline of July 2001 remains.
"We would like to see it done earlier. If it does, all well and good," said an Oftel spokeswoman.
However, Bonfield said: "There will be no change to this date without our agreement. That would be a matter for Oftel and BT - not for the Treasury."
A BT spokeswoman added: "On the technical front, July 2001 is already a challenging deadline."
BT is under pressure to make local calls and therefore internet calls free, as they are in the US. However, the telco has always argued that line rental and standing charges are higher in the US, so the free calls model is a false economy.
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