Potter Speaks Out On U.K. Technology Strategy

The Standard Europe

 (February 19, 2001)  


Our man at the ministry?


Britain's first e-envoy was given a hard task to turn the country into the world's centre for Internet commerce. He lasted nine months. Is his successor any more likely to succeed? By Lisa Naylor    


Q1. Do you think that this government has achieved anything for the Internet Economy?


Michael Potter:

The real question is: "Where has the government gone wrong?" Tony Blair's rhetoric is generally pro-UK, taking a leading role in the global Net economy. But the political and governmental machine below him continually takes action that frustrates his vision. Blame falls directly on the shoulders of the DTI and Oftel.


First it is important to realise that the European Union has initiated infringement proceedings against the UK for its failure to comply with European telecommunications laws.


Telecoms and particularly the penetration of low-cost broadband technology is one of the most important indicators of how well the UK will be positioned to compete in the global information economy. Germany, for instance, which is largely compliant with European law, is two years ahead of the UK in broadband.


Q2. Do you think the Internet Economy would benefit from a change of government?


Michael Potter:

The Internet Economy would greatly benefit from very radical changes to this government. Because radical change is unlikely, the country would be better served by a new government altogether.


Q3. What change in the law would most benefit you in your area of business?


Michael Potter

The critical issue is to ensure that BT complies with basic competition law and basic European telecoms law, including compensation for previous and ongoing anti-competitive behaviour. For instance, Oftel has recently concluded that BT is overcharging for leased lines. This has been a violation of European law since the beginning of 1994. However, Oftel is not interested in BT compensating consumers for these violations. Oftel is simply trying to lower the rates for some time in the future.


Q4. Do you know what the e-envoy does?


Michael Potter

The e-envoy is for politicians to point to a sexy title and proclaim that they are tackling very difficult issues, when in fact the e-envoy is just part of the problem of helping to rearrange the deck-chairs on the Titanic.


Q5. Would you lobby the e-envoy on issues concerning the Internet Economy?


Michael Potter

The e-envoy is not responsible for compliance with European law. The e-envoy is not responsible for ensuring that BT complies with competition law. The e-envoy is not responsible for ensuring that small and medium-sized enterprises are competitive in the global economy. If the e-envoy were to embrace these burdens and responsibilities, then I would take time out of my schedule to discuss these profound issues.       


(Click Here to View Complete Article)