The impact of broadband on the economy and the live of citizens is a reality already recognized at all levels, so regulators and policy makers need to promote strategies to ensure access to the new services and opportunities presented in this new digital world
Since 2000, International Telecommunications Union - ITU -, the United Nations agency specializing in telecommunications issues, organizes the Global Symposium for Regulations - GSR - that brings together telecommunications regulators from all the world to discuss regulatory trends, discuss appropriate measures to ensure access for all to broadband, sharing the knowledge of best practices, promoting innovation and addressing the complexities and challenges of broadband ecosystem.
This year, in its 11th edition, held last week in Armenia, Colombia, - the first time in a Latin American country - under the slogan “Smart Regulation to promote worldwide broadband roll out”, participants focused their attention on
- M-banking services and the role of regulators
- Wireless broadband spectrum pricing
- Satellite regulation,
- Open access regulation,
- Setting national broadband policies, strategies and plans
- Financing universal access/service
- E-waste and recycling and the role of regulators
- Protecting rights, such as intellectual property, of all stakeholders in a digital ecosystem
- Regional initiatives to foster broadband connectivity.
The format of this event has evolved to accommodate the dialogue between regulators and industry, admitting to private sector representatives to discussions at the first of the three days of the GSR and setting the GILF "Global Industry Leaders Forum". The GILF Invited Regulators and Policy makers to join the industry panels to discuss the following issues:
- The evolving regulatory landscape
- Innovation and entrepreneurship: New applications and services driving future growth
- Taxation and its impact on ICT growth
- The impact of social media on the regulatory environment
There were more than 600 participants coming from 75 different countries. I had the chance to attend this event and here are the main ideas (not all of them!) exposed there:
- Public-private partnerships: Some speakers insist on that public-private partnerships are increasingly important to foster the technological development of countries, not only to create an infrastructure that allows them to be more efficient and productive.
- Regulatory flexibility: also widely seen as a necessity, because the challenges facing regulators and operators are the same.
- Spectrum cost: an issue of major impact for operators. It is a public good and scarce, but absolutely necessary for the development of mobile broadband. So, how pricing it? It seems not to be a unique recipe. To fix the price paid by successful bidders will have to take into account various factors, some even counterproductive: required coverage, availability, quality (not all Mz. are equal), services, social needs, market conditions, opportunity cost, etc.., so, maximize revenues obtained by the states is not the priority. Therefore, the recommendation to the countries that are at the time of license renewal would be to negotiate prices in a transparent way, seeking efficiency and the maximum benefit for the citizen.
- Financing of universal service: with respect to the financing of universal service, several participants agreed, that the collecting process is easier than to spend efficiently and to properly set priorities
In many cases, the competencies in this field from the different authorities, (local, municipal or national) are not clearly defined, leading to conflicts that delay the deployment of infrastructures or imposing arbitrary or duplicative taxes.
Apart from that, representatives from various countries presented their own experiences and projects, showing clearly the existence of great differences in all kinds of situations, economic status, laws, objectives…, and even the definition of broadband.
The ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré emphasized the importance of broadband at the present time: “Increased access to broadband will allow us to deliver more effective services to meet the Millennium Development Goals. I am convinced that broadband will go the way of mobile cellular telephony and become virtually ubiquitous in the next decade or so, even though two thirds of the worlds people are still offline”, he said.
Finally, the GSR in Colombia has closed with the adoption of Best Practice Guidelines aimed at advancing the deployment of broadband connectivity worldwide.