BT deal with MCI gets Cruickshank's backing

British Telecom's drive to obtain approval in the US for its pounds 12bn takeover of long-distance operator MCI was given a significant boost yesterday by Don Cruickshank, the UK industry regulator, writes Chris Godsmark.

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Affiliates & Partnerships

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This multi-award winning foreig...

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor