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Telecoms group calls for new commission
Thursday, May 30 2002
by Andrew McLindon

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The Irish telecoms lobby group ALTO has called for the incoming government to establish the new telecoms regulation body as a matter of priority.

ALTO's chairman, Iarla Flynn, told ElectricNews.Net that the setting-up of the Commission for Communications Regulation should be high on the agenda for the next Minister for Public Enterprise and should up-and-running by early autumn. ALTO represents new entrants to the telecoms market.

The replacing of the Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation with the commission was a key element of the Communications Regulation Act, which was passed by the Dail at the end of April. The Act gave the commission considerably enhanced powers in relation to opening up the telecom market in Ireland.

Flynn said that the commission was vital in ensuring the development of effective and sustainable competition in telecommunications here. He added that Ireland had fallen behind in a number of international benchmarks of competitiveness such as broadband availability due to the lack of such competition.

Flynn also called for the three-person commission to have "strong commercial experience" in the telecoms sector, as well as the right mix of skills to encourage competition.

Although he said the members of the Commission should be appointed "without delay," Flynn acknowledged that finding people with the experience and skills he was calling for might take time. "The key thing is that people are appointed on the basis of their ability. If that takes a little bit more time, then that is fine," he remarked.

ALTO also criticised what it called the traditional procurement methods of government departments and bodies, which, it claimed, sees new entrants with 20 percent of the total telecoms market, but less than one percent of government business.

ALTO proposed that all government departments and agencies be obliged to review current contracts and their procurement procedures for the selection of communication service providers. "The current structure is a disadvantage to new entrants because it doesn't give them an opportunity to compete," said Flynn.

In addition, ALTO joined the likes of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the National Competitiveness Council in calling for the establishment of what is generally called an "e-minister." ALTO wants this Minister to have specific responsibility for telecommunications and broadcasting policy, and management of the Information Society, e-government and infrastructure initiatives.


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