Dialogue: Regulatory Frameworks for Improving Access

There’s an ongoing dialogue at the World Dialogue on Regulation for Network Economies about the Regulatory Frameworks for Improving Access. Amy Mahan kindly asked me to contribute — there are so far very interesting contributions to the debate —, so here comes my opinion.

From infrastructures to content regulation

Marc Raboy defined access (1998) in two ways:

In the broadcasting model, emphasis is placed on the active receiver, on free choice, and access refers to the entire range of products on offer. In the telecommunications model, emphasis is on the sender, on the capacity to get one’s messages out, and access refers to the means of communication.

In my opinion, when talking about accessing the Information Society — and measuring the development of the Information Society — in the last years the stress has been put in the Telecommunications Model: what are the infrastructures and how can they evolve to provide access. The regulation framework has, thus, followed the same path, by focusing on the telecommunications market, technical issues and so.

While necessary, the user is nevertheless usually forgotten in this point of view: digital content and services are just seldom taken into account and only sometimes are the target of specific initiatives to promote them, most of them coming from the public sector: e-Administration, e-Government, e-Health…

Notwithstanding, at least three facts have started to shift the focus from infrastructures towards content and services:

  • The increasing maturity of the Information Society, the major deployment — at least in developed countries, but also in most developing ones — of the required infrastructures, and the accompanying legal measures to settle the situation have shown the imbalance between both sides of the scales: the container is regulated, but the content is not.
  • The Web 2.0 has, indeed, strengthen the importance of the user and its creation and communications. And this has often happened to the detriment of infrastructures, as most Web 2.0 applications act as substitutes for desktop software and hardware (not connectivity).
  • Once the intensity of use of the Internet as reached a certain level, the consequences of this use have come under the spotlight, being human rights (freedom of speech, intimacy, security, etc.) on of the most important ones.

Hence, and keeping in mind that infrastructure regulation is a must, it is time when content and services — i.e. uses — require more attention from policy makers and decision-takers:

  • Internet governance
  • Net neutrality
  • Freedom of speech and censorship
  • Digital identity, data protection, right to privacy
  • Intellectual property rights in the digital age
  • Content and services liability (carrier and/or supplier)
  • Jurisdiction of taxes on e-services
  • Definition and jurisdiction of cybercrime

Of course, this is not a closed, definitive list. Any suggestions?

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2007) “Dialogue: Regulatory Frameworks for Improving Access” In ICTlogy, #50, November 2007. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=658

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