If the international experience is anything to go by, Canada should not fear opening up its telecommunications market to foreign ownership. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology heard testimony from European witnesses who said the easing of rules on the continent proved beneficial for all involved. David Edmonds, director general of Oftel, the British telecom regulator, told the MPs that the United Kingdom now has the lowest interconnection costs in the world. He recently ordered British Telecom to chop its access rates to a competitor by half. When broadband deployment was opened up, companies rushed to provide service to major British cities. Smaller communities were left behind, but Oftel is working with local authorities to bring them up to speed. Edmonds said the example of the Canadian government’s broadband strategy has been helpful. "We’ve got a lot to learn from Canada," he told the committee on February 20. His colleague Claire Durkin, director of fixed communications networks for the Department of Trade and Industry, concurred, saying the U.K. is easily a year behind Canada in rolling out backbone. A Broadband Task Force, similar to the one Canada struck (NL, June 18/01), is currently examining the issue. One of the problems is keeping local content in light of the global nature of the Internet. "With the Internet, it is absolutely impossible to build stone walls," she remarked. "We have to ensure we have a vibrant homegrown media market." Three days earlier, Dimitri Ypsilanti of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) told the MPs that Turkey is the only OECD nation with harsher limits than Canada. The only other OECD countries with any restrictions are Korea and Mexico. He calmed fears that outside companies would scoop up Canadian telecom firms and move jobs and R&D abroad. Protecting against a branch plant economy can be done through legislation, he said. "One way some countries have ensured that their incumbent remains independent of any foreign company has been through share limitations," he stated, "that is, no individual or entity is allowed to own more than a limited percentage of shares (usually 5%) of the company." Edmonds, stressing he was speaking only of the British experience, echoed those sentiments. "With intelligent regulations you can set quality standards," he asserted.