It’s a story I’ve told before but when the Irish Government Minister announced the liberalisation of their telecoms market in the 90’s he remarked that it was ironic that his first action in deregulating was to create a regulator. He went on to say that the mark of a successful regulator was one that understood it was a project with a clear goal, and that goal was to reach a point where the market no longer needed a specific regulator. He closed by saying that in his experience regulators don’t live up to that ambition, instead they become embedded in the market and therefore become part of the problem.
While it may not be appropriate for the UK Government to preempt Ofcom’s Strategic Market Review, it would, in my mind, be appropriate for them to remind Ofcom of that Irish wisdom, and ask them to ensure that whatever conclusion they come to, Ofcom plans for a market that no longer needs them.
Doing this would refocus the debate from a distracting and premature argument about whether BT should be broken up to one about what kind of telecoms market the UK wants and needs.
Several years ago, Brian Condon described three market scenarios: