The Posts and Telecommunications Ministry in autumn will commission an advisory council to study the best possible structure for Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., as well as the possibility of revising the NTT law, said the newly appointed posts and telecommunications minister.
“If we draw conclusions by studying various issues and coordinating interests of different parties, we should carry them out,” said Kozo Hirabayashi, a former Tottori governor, during an interview with The Japan Times.
Various parties, including NTT, NTT’s competitors and influential politicians, have recently begun calling for drastic reforms in the domestic telecom market.
The NTT group has called for revisions of the NTT law to grant it more freedom if the fees it charges for access to its domestic lines are to be lowered, as the U.S. government is demanding.
But the new telecom minister remained noncommittal as to whether he will link the two issues in coming negotiations with the United States, only saying “various interpretations will emerge as situations change.”
The NTT group was reorganized last July under a holding company as two local calling companies and one long-distance and Internet business firm.
However, one year later, 96 percent of the domestic local market is still being controlled by the two NTT local firms, prompting NTT competitors to call for easier and clearer procedures to access NTT’s local networks to reach homes and offices.
Hirabayashi declined to elaborate on the scope of discussions at the council, just saying that he will “listen to the various opinions.”
The new telecom minister is now set to debate U.S. government officials on Monday over the access charges for use of NTT’s local networks.
But at his first press conference in his new post late Tuesday night, the 69-year-old Lower House member confessed that he has never regularly used either computers or the Internet.
Asked how much experience or knowledge he has of personal computers and the Internet, a slightly embarrassed Hirabayashi answered: “Nothing.”
The appointment of Hirabayashi seems to demonstrate that what counts in the selection of Cabinet members is interparty power politics, not competence or specialty.
Hirabayashi, who served as Tottori governor for three terms since 1974, had asked top party executives to appoint him as head of the Home Affairs Ministry, where he thought he would be able to use his expertise in local government administration issues.
“I have performed jobs that the party has assigned to me in the past, whether I liked them or not,” Hirabayashi said, adding that he will ask for help from telecom bureaucrats to make up for his lack of high-tech expertise.
The Posts and Telecommunications Ministry is also in charge of postal savings and a home delivery business, which many financial institutions and delivery firms harshly criticize for depriving the private sector of market share.
During the interview, Hirabayashi said he will adapt to rapid social changes but will also pay little heed to the recent “hype” that calls for deregulation.