Carrier Evolution

It long has been a fixture of regulatory policy that different media have had distinct regulatory frameworks. In the U.S. market, the fundamental frameworks include unregulated “media,” partially regulated broadcasting and cable; and heavily-regulated common carrier services.

That “regulation by function” made sense at the time. As all networks become multi-purpose networks, the logic of regulating networks “by function or media type” is subverted.

Also, some would argue, the growing instability of all legacy revenue models, across print, video, music, audio, television and communications industries means that regulation has to incorporate, as a primary objective, the fostering of innovation and investment in network facilities.

A new International Telecommunications Union broadband report incorporates a healthy measure of those perspectives.

“Service providers have struggled with legacy inherited laws and regulations that award licenses per service, and many companies have taken the issue to court – for example, cable TV companies seeking to provide telephone service over their networks, and telephone companies wanting to upgrade their networks to offer video programming services and compete with the cable companies,” the ITU report says.

“More modern approaches to regulation may be needed – such as converged regulation, simplifications to the licensing regime or unified licensing, where one unified license can allow any telecommunication company to provide any service, as long as consumer rights are protected, and the competitiveness of markets is not threatened,” the International Telecommunications Union broadband report suggests.

The historic division between regulation of communications and separate regulation for broadcasting was acceptable in the past when spectrum and telecommunications were clearly divided, and regulation of content was a major focus of any broadcasting agency, the ITU says.

With the shift of virtually all networks to Internet Protocol, virtually all networks can deliver any type of media. And that complicates any efforts to regulate media, broadcasting and communications separately.

The ITU study notes that policy-makers and regulators now must “stimulate” demand for broadband and in promote investment in infrastructure. That also requires a “balance” of technologies and policy approaches appropriate to specific situations, including more wireless effort.

The growth rate in global mobile data traffic is projected to grow 60 percent annually from 2011 to 2017, which will result in a 15-fold increase in traffic by 2017, mainly due to video traffic.

“Such an explosion in data traffic requires more spectrum,” the ITU says. In this regard, policy-makers and regulators can help to create a supportive environment and encourage investment and ensure sufficient availability of quality spectrum, the ITU says.