Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications

CUT is 3 (1 March 2001)

The Campaign goes one better than the Queen in having three birth dates: 25 February 1998, when the meeting that set us up was called; 31 March, when our first event, the Festival of Free Calls, happened; and 10 July, when this Web site went up and we started campaigning in earnest. So, like the monarch, we choose another date as our official birthday, namely 1 March.

Three years on, we have won the argument over unmetered Internet access; really, it was won a year ago but the implementation took a long time.

What still astonishes us, even after countless meetings and events, is that we are listened to. Why should a group of seven people who are voluntary part-time workers, running a campaign in odd corners of the day, be listened to? We suggest several reasons:

We tend to be right. Although we have made mistakes, most notably hailing FRIACO too soon, we have been reasonably accurate in our view of the world. One of our more surprising successes is Option Zero, our approach to local loop unbundling: although two years old thus, in normal circumstances, verging on antiquity, it becomes more relevant almost every day given the problems of local loop unbundling.

We are independent and self-funded. How often do you read a newspaper and see, for example, a survey extolling the virtues of mineral water over coffee, tea, fruit juice or whatever and then note, in small print and as an aside, 'The survey was conducted by insert your favourite mineral water manufacturer'? We stand against that kind of bias and often take an active part in countering misinformation resulting from it.

We can alter the agenda. One memorable instance of this was the fuss over AltaVista's unmetered service that never was. Although a scandal and a fine human interest story we made the effort to go round journalists and say quietly 'this is ephemeral; you should be writing about FRIACO'. Where technology will be in five or ten years we do not know, but it is certain that the AltaVista affair will be forgotten first.

We use the services we write about. It is remarkable how many people are employed to write at some remove from their subject; that abstraction is often obvious in the final text. That we have direct knowledge may be the catalyst for our opinion often being sought and quoted and our developing many industry sources, some confidential.

We are elected. Thus we are mandated to represent the interests of our Members and, as with any elected body, the Committee or any of its members can be voted out if the Members are not happy. Although there is considerable extra effort involved in running an elected body compared to a self-appointed one, particularly when organising Annual General Meetings, democracy benefits everyone as it embeds the Campaign. For example, CUT cannot be arbitrarily wound up without a vote of the Members.

Our presentation is deliberately austere. That will not change; we deal with a difficult and serious subject and 'bright primary colours with cartoons on the front page' would be inappropriate.

We produce entirely original content. This is probably most important of all and involves an excruciating process of review by the whole Committee, with drafts posted on our extranet to be picked over; instant remarks are dangerous, except when implied personal comment on our mailing list, and we would rather be slow and largely right than fast and largely wrong. Would you believe that the FRIACO summary took fifteen to twenty hours to write? Although everything is derivative in the end we cannot see how anyone could feel pleasure or a sense of achievement from reproducing a press release then adding a few remarks.

Where next?

We will have an extraordinary Committee meeting on 5 March to discuss this. We are far from finished; narrowband Internet access, although technically 'solved', will have to be watched and there are many ongoing issues to tackle such as broadband Internet access, local loop unbundling, IP interconnection and the (partially regulated) restructuring of BT.

As ever, we will not offer grandiose, deterministic, fragile solutions but rather aim to get the right people at the right time round the table, asking the right questions and giving the best answers possible. That approach worked with FRIACO: that we encourage people to think outside their own point of view is reason enough for our existence.

[ Home ] [ About ] [ Analysis ] [ Solutions ] [ Mythbusters ] [ Get Involved ]
[ News ] [ Features ] [ Reference ] [ Discussion ] [ Press ] [ Diary ]
[ Members ] [ Contact ] [ Site Map ] [ Search ] [ Links ]

Site design by Richard Sliwa
based on an original concept by Runic Design.
© CUT 2001. Last updated 1 March 2001.