Regulators Look To The Post-Covid Era

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As Communications Policymakers Debate The Urgent Need For Greater Connectivity

By Clifford Agugoesi, Editor-in-Chief and Godson Umejiego, Correspondent USA

“You’ve responded better than you ever possibly thought”. President of the International Institute of Communications(IIC), Chris Chapman opened the annual International Regulators Forum (IRF), attended by global telecommunications sector regulators, including but not limited to the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC), by drawing attention to the ability of regulatory bodies to implement rapid changes in the face of COVID-19.

But he went on to point out that the broad successes achieved should serve to focus attention on the larger questions raised by the pandemic: that regulatory bodies around the world mostly lacked the frameworks, powers, legislative support and resource competencies necessary to address the acceleration of digitisation now under way, especially for more remote and rural communities.

The forum heard how, in the post-Covid era, public services in areas such as healthcare and education could be transformed through digitisation but that existing mechanisms for delivering connectivity, such as market and community models, would not be adequate. New initiatives included cross-jurisdictional partnerships, realistic spectrum pricing for 5G deployment and tax incentives to drive infrastructure development, but more action was needed from governments as well as international and regional organisations.

“During this crisis, the importance of inclusive access to the internet for a range of vital issues such as health, education and the economy have never been clearer… never have we had a better opportunity to show the decision makers the value of good access,” said Director-General, Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS), Sweden, and BEREC Chair for 2020, Dan Sjöblom.

In other debates, the forum discussed the integration of traditional and digital media, protecting the consumer against misinformation and establishing an emergency alert system based on experiences

during the pandemic. Regulators heard how, in Mexico, an emergency system provided a basic mobile and fixed service for a minimal or zero fee, a ‘coronavirus helpline’, systems that alerted engineers to any breakdown in service, and assistance to deliver basic education using traditional media.

The forum consisted of over 200 registered senior regulators from 58 countries representing bodies

in Australasia, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, The America’s, Caribbean and Europe, and was hosted

by the Canadian regulator, the CRTC.

The International Regulatory Forum is an annual event run by the IIC to bring together the world’s

leading communications regulators. This year, for the first time, it was an exclusively online event

hosted by the Canadian Radio-Television and Communications Commission. The IRF in 2021 will be

hosted by the German Communications regulator, BNetzA.

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