UK telecoms regulator Oftel has come under fire from MPs for its "lazy" and "complacent" approach to opening up BT's local telephone exchanges to competition.
At a Trade and Industry select committee yesterday, MPs accused Oftel director general David Edmonds of being complacent in his approach to introducing competition into BT's local network.
MP Martin O'Neill, chair of the committee, said there is great concern that Oftel's slowness will mean that the UK will begin to lag behind the rest of Europe. "Lazy is the way that I would describe the speed of your consultation process," he told Oftel. "Your complacency is quite appalling."
The committee also accused Oftel of failing to resolve other issues including unmetered internet access, the pricing of leased lines and making mobile phone tariffs more simple to understand. O'Neill accused Edmonds of failing to use Oftel's regulatory powers efficiently.
Edmonds said the accusations were unfair, although he admitted that BT has been dragging its feet over local loop unbundling. He said Oftel has had some "almost bitter discussions" with the telco, with the talks during the summer resembling "trench warfare".
Edmonds said the regulator has done everything it can to push forward local loop unbundling and referred to its announcement this week that it will force BT to offer a wholesale flat-rate internet access product from next year. He also said the regulator is looking to simplifying mobile phone tariffs.
Oftel has come under continued criticism during recent months. Telco RSL Com, which last month accused Oftel of being too lenient with BT, yesterday urged MPs to take immediate action and give Oftel greater power to regulate the industry more effectively.
"It is essential for the implementation of the government's vision of a 'broadband Britain' that it gives Oftel more teeth and the power to do its job effectively," said Barry Mowbray, managing director of RSL Com.
"The current delays are very frustrating... and obstructing Britain's progress towards the kind of high-speed and low-cost internet services that are enjoyed by our European counterparts.
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