Telco questions MED's role in spectrum management

TelstraClear says spectrum management should be with Telecommunications Commissioner

TelstraClear wants spectrum management to be removed from the Ministry of Economic Development and placed with the Telecommu-nications Commissioner.

The suggestion came as part of the company’s response to the government’s review of digital broadcasting.

“There may be benefits to amalgamating this responsibility with that of the Telecommunications Commissioner,” TelstraClear says, “particularly as issues of market power and market concentration often require the commission to authorise the spectrum purchase.”

It points to recent examples of the commissioner having made such decisions.

Greater unification of market and content regulation for “broadcasting-like” services to reflect technical convergence is a significant thread of the government review.

TelstraClear is, however, wary that a more unified regulatory scheme could confuse economic and cultural objectives.

It may be unwise, the company says, to give both priorities to the same body as it risks creating conflicts of interest. It may also detract from the body’s ability to make timely decisions, which in turn could impact on certainty of investment decisions.

The company suggests relatively light modification of current arrangements with the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) taking on some responsibility for standards on new platforms and the Telecommunications Commissioner taking on some regulatory responsibility for media markets.

Telecom appears wary of another bout of regulatory change in its submission.

“Our key concern is that the ministry’s discussion paper proposes a number of specific initiatives measures while the stocktake reforms are still being implemented. The danger is that the proposals simply overlay existing regulation, creating further complexity and uncertainty,” the company argues.

Telecom counsels caution regarding any change and questions whether the fundamental objectives of reforms have been fully thought out.

“It is important that an issue or problem is clearly defined before any regulation is imposed. A consistent overarching regulatory policy will allow issues to be identified and the ministry to consider whether market regulation is the best means to achieve its objectives.”

Vodafone, like TelstraClear, advocates some convergence of regulatory bodies but cautions against expecting one body to apply a single set of content standards to widely differing media.

It appears anxious not to be regulated as a content provider.

“In many cases, Vodafone’s role is more analogous to that of the role Kordia plays as a broadcasting platform for TVNZ than that of a broadcaster itself,” it says.

It argues for a continuing differentiation between content delivered through a mobile service and conventional broadcast programmes.

Any attempt to regulate content such as that on blogs to BSA standard is likely to encounter stout resistance from the contributors on freedom-of-speech grounds, Vodafone says.

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Tags Telecommunications CommissionerCommerce CommissionspectrumNetworking & Telecomms IDMEDTelstraClear

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