Convergence: one rule for all?



John Riley

Convergence - where voice, data and video are all delivered digitally down the same pipes - is at an early stage. But with a White...



John Riley

Convergence - where voice, data and video are all delivered digitally down the same pipes - is at an early stage. But with a White Paper due in the autumn, the Government is now turning to the regulatory issues convergence poses.

Do we need a super-regulator modelled on Oftel to ensure fair competition in the data-carrying networks of the future? And should it, like the Independent Television Commission, also ensure competition in the sphere of content?

These questions are likely to prompt the biggest regulatory debate for business in the next decade. So - in the light of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) debacle - it's time business and government started squaring up to them. Oftel's slowness in forcing BT to open up the local loop to competitors' DSL services shows how regulatory approaches that were OK in the pre-Internet era can retard the emergence of the e-economy.

Meanwhile, recent decisions in TV regulation reflect an obsession with the need to create a big national content provider that can compete on a global scale.

Recent mergers and acquisitions have created global-scale alliances of content providers and network carriers that will be hard to regulate on an EU-wide basis - let alone simply in the UK.

Nevertheless, it is in the interest of businesses and consumers that governments fight to keep national markets competitive.

But content and the network should be regulated separately. The separation of content from the network lies at the heart of the approach that has allowed the Internet to flourish. The proposition that we need five third generation mobile phone networks does not imply that we need five "walled garden" content providers.

The emerging voice-data-video networks of the early 21st century form the world's biggest machine. Governments need a unified strategy to keep that machine accessible to all. But you can't expect one set of rules to deal with everything from Vodafone versus Cellnet to Coronation Street versus Eastenders.

Read more on IT legislation and regulation

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

SearchCIO

SearchSecurity

SearchNetworking

SearchDataCenter

SearchDataManagement

Close