Telecommunication regulatory institutional structures and responsibilities

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

This paper, prepared by the OECD,  provides an overview of the structure and responsibilities of telecommunications regulatory bodies.

This report updates an earlier OECD paper prepared  for the Telecommunication and Information Services Policies Working Party entitled ‘Telecommunications Regulations: Institutional Structures and Responsibilities‘. The main changes that have taken place compared to the situtation as described by this latter paper when it was published year 2000 are as follows:

  • The responsibilities of regulators have changed in many countries as functions, formerly with ministries, have been transferred to them.
  • Several regulators have undergone restructuring through the merging between telecommunication and broadcasting regulators.
  • There has been a shift to allow for joint responsibility in the telecommunication sector between competition authorities and the sector specific regulator. In certain cases formal mechanisms have been put into place for co-operation while in some countries there is informal co-operation. 

Sector specific regulators have often been regarded as temporary institutions aimed at developing that effective competition in the sector. Once such competition has developed, regulators would in principle forbear from regulation and over time the sector would be subject only to oversight by the competition authority. There has been forbearance in a number of areas by regulators, but the development of new technologies has often led to new issues arising and these have often required regulatory intervention. In addition, regulators often deal with social issues, such as universal service, and the licensing of spectrum, so it is likely that there will still be a requirement for sector specific regulators for some time to come. 

The shift by operators to the ‘next generation network’ may create further demands to have a single regulatory structure, but not many institutional changes have been taken in order to deal with convergence. The development of new network structures may well result in the need for a review of existing regulatory structures and their responsibilities, in addition to a change in the regulations themselves. In this regard, it is important that regulatory structures should be sufficiently flexible to deal with rapid changes in the communications sector as well as to continue to meet needs of users and the industry.

Read the full report [pdf; ~185 kB]

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