Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications

7-2-2 (25 March 1999)

We - or more exactly two of us, Alastair and Erol - had our first face-to-face meeting with OFTEL, which they called, today. It was an extremely long and wide-ranging meeting, and almost impossible to summarise, but a few points are worth making:

  • OFTEL are in a terribly weak position on Number Translation Services;

  • They agree with us that the 'free' ISP structure, with Internet calls being routed around the country and other absurdities, is ultimately untenable and will revert to a pre-1996 state to some extent (ISPs moving geographically closer to their users);

  • They were absolutely explicit that broadband technologies are not, in their view, meterable although there may end up being tariffs such as different bandwidths for different flat rates;

  • They kept trying to move the conversation into a very narrow channel (their view of network economics) and were very shaky when we broadened it out;

  • We mentioned Karoo Xtra and BTClickPlus, and the best description we can give of the reaction would be 'pursed lips all round';

  • They admitted that a lot of what they said was based on their views and opinions;

  • They had certainly come to listen to a greater or lesser extent; we didn't get any impression of 'we've come to a fixed view of the world no matter what you say and we're only here out of politeness'.
The big problem, which we expected, is a lack of urgency. We didn't get any impression that OFTEL were, or were capable of, doing anything to speed up the introduction of IP telephony, broadband techniques and other necessities, and they became defensive when the conversation moved towards this topic.

All that said ... at least they were open and honest with us. A pity that uk.telecom readers may not have the same privilege.

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