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The UK government has no intention of introducing any organisation to regulate the Internet said Ian Taylor, Minister for Trade & Technology at the Information Superhighways, The First Mile conference in London on Friday. My instinct is not to throttle an industry at birth, that will only deter its development, said Taylor, adding that the government would rely on the power of competition and the free market to control on-line service providers. If one service provider looked to be dominating the Internet industry, then that would be a matter for the Monopolies & Mergers Commission, rather than a body specific to the Internet. The government wants more companies and government departments to use the Internet as a tool to improve business competitiveness and the openness of government. Last November the government pledged to lead the UK down the Super Highway and Friday’s meeting assessed progress since then (CI No 2,557). Taylor and his colleague, Public Service Minister John Horam, professsed themselves satisfied with governmental progress, but felt UK businesses were not taking advantage of the existing infrastructure. The CCTA, the Government Centre for Information Systems, has been providing government departments and public bodies with space on the Internet since October. It has also helped various departments set up their own servers: the Department of Trade & Industry, Central Office of Information, Defence Research Agency, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Treasury, Ministry of Defence and Northern Ireland Civil Service. And it will soon offer a directory service so the general public can find the Internet addesses of government and public bodies. But there were a number of things holding business back, the cost of ISDN lines for example. But elsewhere good progress was being made in developing encryption software so commercial transactions could be secured and the government had no intention of stifling the growing interest with regulation. One control option would be to place service providers under some sort of obligation: Taylor said his department was looking at this, but as the Internet is global the network is beyond control.

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