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Global Symposium for Regulators
Regulators worldwide embrace principles of open networks, open access
 
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Photo credit: AFP
 

Open access to networks calls for a rethinking of regulation to anchor national broadband strategies. The aim is to allow for effective competition while ensuring accessible, affordable and reliable services for consumers.

A key outcome of GSR-10 is a set of “Best Practice Guidelines for Enabling Open Access”. These guidelines encourage regulatory frameworks that foster innovation, investment and affordable access to broadband and other services in markets worldwide, through a set of core principles all regulators can adopt and then adapt to local market conditions.

The guidelines underscore the importance of a clear and transparent regulatory process, including enforceable rules governing service provision, a technology-neutral approach, and competitive network and service provision. They call on regulators to embrace forward-looking regimes that are subject to regular review, to remove any new or emerging regulatory barriers to competition and innovation.

Defining open access

From a service provider’s perspective, open access means the possibility for third parties to use an existing network infrastructure. And every user (consumer) should have access to all services and applications carried over these networks, as long as those services and applications are public and lawful. The user’s range of choices should not be unduly constrained by the inability of competitors to obtain access to services, especially over last-mile infrastructure.

Open access to networks

Policy and regulatory tools are needed to open up access to network facilities without harming investment and innovation.

In order to encourage broadband deployment, and to preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, regulators should consider mandating dominant providers of national broadband networks, including cable landing stations, to provide open access on a fair and non-discriminatory basis to their networks and essential facilities for competitors at different levels of the networks.

In countries where fibre-to-the-building is deployed, regulators should set rules that ensure shared and equal access, to prevent discriminatory behaviour or a monopoly by the first infrastructure operator in the building.

A centralized record of infrastructures that can be shared, whether held by public bodies, electronic communications operators or other public utilities, should be established for the benefit of all market players. Operators should make available information regarding passive infrastructure (such as ducts and towers) that can be shared.

Open networks

Efficient allocation and assignment of the digital dividend spectrum will result in social and economic benefits that could stimulate innovation for the provision of lower-cost communications and services, especially in rural and remote areas.

Governments should update the definition of universal service as needs evolve to ensure technology neutrality and the inclusion of broadband access.

Governments should put in place national plans and strategies to stimulate the deployment of broadband networks, particularly in developing countries. Such strategies might include public–private partnerships and promoting the involvement of municipalities or cities.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock
 

Open and neutral Internet

There should be fair rules for Internet traffic management. Any differences in the way in which various data streams are treated should be objectively justifiable, whether according to the type of content, the service, application, device or the address of the stream’s origin or destination.

When Internet service providers (ISPs) employ traffic management mechanisms for ensuring access to the Internet at any point of the network, they should comply with the general principles of relevance, proportionality, efficiency, non-discrimination between parties and transparency.

To ensure reasonable traffic management practices, regulators should take measures such as:

  • obliging ISPs to disclose information concerning network management, quality of service and other practices;

  • allowing clients to quickly end their contracts without high switching costs;

  • prescribing minimum quality of service for Internet access;

  • giving consumers the right to access any lawful content, applications, and services over their Internet connections.

These principles must not supersede any obligation an ISP may have — or limit its ability — to deliver emergency communications or to address the needs of law enforcement, public safety, or national or homeland security authorities, consistent with applicable law.

Regulators might consider facilitating the creation of local content and of local Internet exchange points (IXP) to complement and ease international data flow.

Open access to content

Regulators should ensure broadband connectivity to schools, health centres and hospitals, so that citizens can benefit when connecting through high bandwidth to these services.

Governments should create awareness among consumers about the risks associated with technological progress, and take the necessary measures for data protection, privacy, consumer rights, and the protection of minors and vulnerable segments of society.

Challenges to open networks

Open networks pose challenges in terms of network stability, business continuity, resilience, critical infrastructure protection, data privacy and crime prevention. Internet Protocol networks, based as they are on an open architecture and well-known protocols, are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Preventing attacks by patching vulnerable systems, implementing firewalls or other access control technologies, monitoring through intrusion detection systems, and responding to the threats in real time, have become crucial to effective network operation.

        
Aminata Tall
photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Aminata Tall
Senegal’s Minister of State and Secretary-General in the Office of the President

A harmonized regulatory framework should be developed within regions and a broader dialogue established between all stakeholders so that this central issue of open access networks can be further discussed and the appropriate measures taken.

Service providers should exercise reasonable network management practices with respect to outbound as well as inbound traffic. Such practices can help stamp out attacks at the source and thus stop them from spreading.

Regulators should implement measures to prevent Internet service providers from connecting unlawful user devices to the networks.

Closing time

Director-General Diao expressed satisfaction that the North and the South were examining the future together. “We are linked by common objectives”, he said, noting that the South has expertise that it can contribute to the North. He stressed that telecommunications are the present and the future, and that without a vision we cannot move forward.

Closing the Symposium, Aminata Tall, Senegal’s Minister of State and Secretary-General in the Office of the President commended ITU for bringing together, in collaboration with ARTP, a group of eminent experts to think, discuss and share their experiences. She recognized the importance of ITU in strengthening human capacity building and in improving regulatory frameworks. “We all depend on ICT because we are living in the era of the ’knowledge’ economy”, she said. Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid expressed his pride in the outcome of the 2010 GSR and extended his best wishes to his successor, Brahima Sanou.

Colombia’s invitation to host the next Global Symposium for Regulators in 2011 was warmly acclaimed by all GSR-10 participants.

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Photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General, and Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau welcome Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade at the opening ceremony of GSR-10 in Dakar
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Photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Brahima Sanou, Director Elect of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (second left); Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General; and Mr Sami Al Basheer, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau pictured here with Senegalese dignitaries

 


The full text of the “Best Practice Guidelines for Enabling Open Access” are contained in the GSR-10 Chairman’s Report available at:
www.itu.int/ITU-D/treg/Events/Seminars/GSR/GSR10/documents/GSRChairman_report.pdf

 

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