Removing the 20-year limit on spectrum rights as suggested in the Radiocomm-unications Amendment Bill could result in spectrum being under-utilised in future, says Clear Communications.
The bill is being considered by the Commerce select committee following public submissions. A final hearing date hasn’t been set.
In its submission on the amendments proposed for the Radiocommunications Act, Clear says that if the bill is passed it would enable spectrum to be alienated for periods that are far longer than the horizon of predictable technological development.
It believes that rapid technological developments (affecting the use of spectrum) mean it’s impossible to predict to any extent its potential uses in the future.
“Spectrum buyers would bid on the basis of current-day technology and investment in the spectrum in accordance with that technology. Removing the 20 [year] limit on spectrum rights could therefore result in spectrum being under-utilised in the future, or utilised for archaic purposes, thus denying New Zealanders the benefits of evolving technologies.”
Technological developments will create opportunities for diversity, but if long-term spectrum rights are cemented, it might reduce the potential for diversity.
Clear is also concerned about a lack of “use it or lose it conditions” in the legislation. “[It] marks a departure from common practice of governments in other countries. It opens the way for dominant players to acquire spectrum for the purpose of keeping out competition. As a result, consumers will be disadvantaged because spectrum’s potential benefits will be under-utilised.”
Clear proposes there should be the right to challenge the continuing use (or lack of use) of spectrum through the courts.
It says that relying solely on the Commerce Act for preventing spectrum rights being used anti-competitively will provide insufficient protection for consumers.
“This is in part because some aspects of the Commerce Act are ineffective to deliver fair and effective competition in the light-handed regulatory regime.”
It believes that government policy must provide an incentive for spectrum owners to use it to its fullest potential and discourage inefficient use and hoarding.