The annual Pacific Telecom Council (PTC) conference is known as the "Davos of Telecom". For 34 years, CEO's and telecom regulators descend on Hawaii to sip Mai Tai cocktails and spar over policy. This year, regulators from the US, Japan, Germany and New Zealand provided a very different vision for telecom oversight.
Governments and regulators everywhere share certain universal challenges. This includes high-speed broadband for rural constituents, rollout of 4G wireless networks and the efficient distribution of "whitespace" bandwidth. As broadband demand continues to soar, governmental decisions become even more important. For example, according to research firm Telegeography, two thirds of all demand is now driven by rich media such as video, browsing and P2P. Growth is high everywhere but is highest (over 100% CAGR, 2007-2011) in Eastern Europe and Asia.
Tetsuo Yamakawa, Vice Minister, Policy Coordination, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), Japan
Tetsuo Yamakawa is responsible for international ICT policy coordination. He contributes tomultilateral organizations such as the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT).
"Our greatest challenge this year will be to protect the free flow of information across the internet. Last year at the G-8 Conference, some countries insisted on new internet restrictions. For example, China and Russia submitted resolutions to the UN about how to address internet security concerns.
The US, UK, Japan and others are concerned about these activities and we will work closely this year to ensure the unrestricted flow of internet information. Our stance is very clear- intervention should be minimal and governments should be restrained from restricting the internet."
Kevin Martin, Former Chairman, Federal Communications Commission,USA
Kevin Martin served as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in theUnited States from 2005-2009. Currently, he is a lobbyist with Patton, Boggs LLP
"I think governments are trying to keep up with convergence on the technology side and convergence on the service side. They're trying to keep up by changing their rules, but I think they struggle. What's probably most important from a government's perspective, from a regulatory perspective, is to change the dynamic of frameworks so they are not technology-specific any longer, but service-specific sets of rules; you're not regulating cable vs. telco vs. wireless, but instead trying to adopt a broad culture for what broadband services should mean from a consumer perspective, that applies equally across all the different technologies."
"It's helpful, as we've seen in the US and around the world, for governments to adopt very specific goals. So the current Commission said they wanted to make 100 million homes have access to 100Mbps by 2020. That kind of technology-neutral framework, along with very specific goals, is probably a better framework."
Ross Patterson, Telecoms Commissioner, New Zealand Commerce Commission, New Zealand
Appointed in 2007, Ross Patterson has lead responsibility for implementation of the regulatoryregime in New Zealand's Telecommunications Act of 2001. Currently, the Commission is monitoring the structural separation of Telecom as part of New Zealand's Ultrafast Broadband Initiative.
"The most significant issue facing all of us is to achieve 100mb / second by 2020. How do we get there? FTTH is the technology most likely to deliver those speeds. APAC has taken a different approach from the US. Led by Japan and Korea and followed by Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, we recognize that the market alone will not deliver those speeds and levels of penetration in the next 8 years. Countries in this area fear being left behind if they don't match the roll-outs in Japan / Korea. As a result, countries like Singapore, Australia and New Zealand introduced government funding, open access and structural separation of the network from telecom services. All three countries have adopted that model as an opportunity to vertically disintegrate the vertically integrated telecom operators".
Matthias Kurth, President, Federal Network Agency, (BNetzA), overseeing the Telecommunications, Postal, Energy and Railway Markets, Germany
Matthias Kurth is President of the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) since 2001. BNetzA is the sector-specific competition authority for telecommunications, postal, energy and railway marketsin Germany.
"My philosophy is setting a framework for private investment and action. The mobile network is now more important than fixed broadband. In Germany, we integrated the needs of our rural citizens into the auction process and LTE licensing requirements, ensuring full LTE rollout in rural areas BEFORE urban areas. We shaped a voluntary agreement to have common standards but limited regulation.
Regulation should be technology neutral, whether towards mobile, fixed broadband or cable (65% of German households are covered by cable). You have to convince the broadcasters to give up valuable spectrum, which they are willing to do if they understand the benefits for rural coverage. It was an easy implementation to bring broadband to the rural areas"
Internet freedom, service side convergence, unbundling telecom services and rural rollout- these are some of the priorities government regulators would like to address in 2012. But first they will begin with a Mai Tai.
Levi Shapiro is a Partner at TMT Strategic Advisors, a research and strategy firm focusing on the technology, media and telecom sectors. He can be reached at email@example.com or via twitter: @levshapiro
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