Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications

Comments on the Parliamentary Debate (10 June 1999)

I (Richard S) write this while listening to Michael Wills, Minister for Communications, responding to Steve Webb's excellent speech on 'Telecommunications regulation and the growth of the Internet' on 9 June 1999. (The official transcript is now published in Hansard).

The speech (which mentioned this site's URL and offered a number of quotes from our material) mentioned every important issue now and in the future, from Freeserve via cable modems and xDSL to and BT dragging its feet over transferring customers to LocalTel.

Sadly, the Minister's reply was, basically, stating how wonderful UK regulation is - in particular, that we have forty-five operators offering international cut-price deals! This is a favourite topic for Ministers in such debates as it makes the United Kingdom look good but, frankly, it is not relevant to most people.

What struck me the most about watching the Minister speak was his constant glancing at the clock. The impression I got was that he was desperate not to allow anyone else to have a say after him (the debate was limited to half an hour and no more). His entire contribution was read from a prepared script and he didn't answer a single point made in Steve Webb's speech.

A few specific issues the Minister raised:

  • An interjection from Steve Webb on why cable modems have yet to be released in the UK although they've been available elsewhere (including the USA and several European countries) for a couple of years was brushed aside with the usual platitudes about how wonderful they are. This included the phrase 'Competition is the best way and is working'.

  • The prepared speech included recent OECD statistics used by OFTEL in its Memorandum to the Trade and Industry Select Committee Inquiry into Electronic Commerce, stating without qualification that telephone access charges in the UK are lower than those in the USA! We felt so strongly about the content and tone of that Memorandum we made a formal response to the Inquiry.

  • 'There's nothing to suggest where businesses are concerned that [cost of access] is a barrier'. We refer the Minister to the CBI's submission to the Inquiry last month which stated exactly the opposite. We will be writing to the Minister asking for his reasons for making that statement.

  • The Minister didn't even manage to finish his speech as time ran out. The Deputy Speaker cut him off in mid-sentence as he was praising the Government's lofty aim of getting all schools online by 2002 with 95% of those on ISDN lines. Does he realise how silly this sounds? ISDN as a technology has already been knocked into the dust. This exposes the hollowness of his first words, implying what an enthusiastic Internet user he is. Has the Minister ever witnessed any working Internet session?

[ 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 1999.