BT deal with MCI gets Cruickshank's backing
In a speech in Washington last night he comprehensively demolished the attack on the merger launched by AT&T, arguing that Britain offered competitive opportunities for new telephone companies which were "equal to any in the world, if not better".
The comments came as merger documents filed in the US showed the two top MCI executives will receive a $130m (pounds 80m) bonanza of share options if the deal succeeds.
Without naming BT or AT&T directly, Mr Cruickshank attacked claims from the US that it was difficult for rival operators to gain access to the British market. The US regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, has said it will only approve the merger if it can be demonstrated that US carriers have as much chance of breaking into the UK market as British operators will have in America.
AT&T, which is expanding its UK operations, claims it has been hampered by the UK's "indirect access" system, where its customers have to dial a three-digit code to get access to the company's long-distance services. The US carrier argues that BT's dominance of local residential phone lines means rival operators will always face a competitive disadvantage. In the US long-distance carriers enjoy direct access to customers, a system known as dialling parity.
However, Mr Cruickshank said the indirect access policy was the only way to encourage the cable companies to build local phone networks. He said: "This is perhaps the difference between our two regulatory frameworks which it is hardest for Americans to understand ... For the UK dialling parity is not the linchpin of market opening. Far from it."
Though the comments were also a clear defence of Mr Cruickshank's own record, they were welcomed by BT sources. An AT&T spokesman declined to comment, though the speech is likely to be viewed by the group as a significant setback.
Have shock jocks gone too far after Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut?
The ‘Beverly Hills’ of Surrey pays more income tax than big cities of the North
British business: We need to stay in the European Union - or risk losing up to £92bn a year
World news in pictures
British father faces charges after confessing to slitting his two children's throats in Lyon flat
- 1 The ‘Beverly Hills’ of Surrey pays more income tax than big cities of the North
- 2 Gareth Bale agrees new £130,000-a-week Tottenham contract - but can leave next season for £50m
- 3 'Revenge porn' is no longer a niche activity which victimises only celebrities - the law must intervene
- 4 The moral case on tax avoidance is overwhelming - and we all know Google wants to do the right thing
- 5 Sam Wallace: The second coming of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea will be a reunion that can only end in tears
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
iJobs Money & Business
£500 per day: Orgtel: A top tier banking client urgently requires Finance Busi...
£425 - £550 per day: Orgtel: Senior Finance Project Manager - £550 - Bristol -...
£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: KYC Analyst - London - Banking - £150-250/day C...
£500 per day: Orgtel: A top tier banking client urgently requires Finance Gove...