Watchdog warns on learning grid

2nd January 1998 at 00:00
The telecommunications watchdog OFTEL has warned the Government not to let the industry's biggest players take over its National Grid for Learning.

Industry regulator Don Cruickshank is advising ministers to separate the contract for creating the grid from that for providing the material that teachers and pupils will be able to access on it.

The advice - in response to Government consultations on the grid - aims to prevent major companies such as British Telecom and Microsoft gaining a stranglehold on the network, which is intended as a major educational resource for schools.

OFTEL has already acted to prevent British Telecom gaining an unfair advantage by offering individual schools cut-price Internet access tied to its own Net services.

But the National Grid for Learning is likely to make that issue redundant as schools become part of their own mini-Net. OFTEL is recommending a similar protection for the grid as a whole.

The visit of Bill Gates, Microsoft's boss, to Downing Street was used by Tony Blair as the occasion to launch consultations on the grid - to the concern of the multinational firm's competitors.

Mr Cruickshank said his proposals would give more influence to publishers - the creators of resources - rather than to those who deliver them.

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