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Beginning of the end for Oftel

Last day to air your views on future regulator

Today sees the end of the consultation period on the government's White Paper on communications. Now it's down to the Trade and Industry, and Culture, Media and Sport departments to mull over the replies they've had. But the end result is in a way inevitable – a replacement for telco watchdog Oftel.

Today also sees Oftel issuing its latest quarterly report on consumer use of telecommunications. It found only 30 percent of families in the UK are connected to the internet, compared to 41.5 percent in the US.

Oftel has been getting tougher on BT and other telcos recently, probably in a last-ditch attempt to save face, and therefore key staff, in the run up to the changeover to Ofcom. Ofcom, or something that sounds very much like that, will most likely be the government's solution to the proliferation of different information media that it thinks need to be regulated.

"At the earliest it'll be 2002 or 2003 for Ofcom to come into being," said a spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. That's pretty emphatic – Oftel's days are numbered no matter what the consultation replies are like.

Oftel’s quarterly consumer survey outlines the current trends in internet, mobile and fixed phone use in the UK during November 2000.

The report found that 30 percent of homes in the UK are now connected up to the internet. Users spent an average of 7 hours online per week, but the watchdog admitted that this figure is inflated by a small number of heavy users.

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