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A state panel on information technology agreed Thursday to a review of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. to allow for fair competition in the telecom sector, while using IT to promote public welfare and regain economic competitiveness.

Working under the so-called e-Japan strategy headed by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, the IT Strategy Council worked on measures intended to make Japan one of the world’s most advanced IT countries within five years.

The council states in the plan that promoting fair competition will benefit users by allowing them access to inexpensive and high-speed telecom services.

For that purpose, the panel agreed to introduce regulations that would prevent anticompetitive practices by dominant telecom carriers, while drastically easing regulations for carriers that are not dominant in the market.

If the proposed measures fail to create an environment of fair competition in the telecom sector, the council suggests a prompt review of the management of the NTT group, the country’s dominant telecom group, along with the country’s telecommunications system.

The Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry plans to submit the bills to the current ordinary Diet session to revise related laws around April 10, according to a government official.

The action plan designates five priority areas — telecom infrastructure, human resources, electronic commerce, digital government, and safety and security — from a list of 220 measures designed to boost the use of IT.

To achieve a high-speed network, the action plan calls for the government to allow carriers to access local networks held by the NTT group and expand radio frequencies to allow access to a high-speed radio network before the end of 2001.

In the field of human resources, the panel agreed on the necessity to promote education for IT engineers, while reviewing the existing legal system so that Japan can accept more IT engineers from overseas.

To promote electronic commerce, the government will review the existing regulations in fiscal 2001 that are hampering the growth of e-commerce, while arranging new rules to deal with online contracts and the responsibility of Net service providers.

As measures to digitalize government information, the action plan calls for providing administrative information such as regulations and annual reports over the Internet by the end of fiscal 2003.

The council plans to examine the progress of the measures listed in the action plan around September, while reviewing the action plan itself within a year.

The council will hold the next meeting in mid May to discuss priority measures to be carried out in fiscal 2002.

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