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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project