A big year for policy makers

David A. Gross
01 Jan 2006
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One of our first opportunities comes at the March ITU World Telecommunications Development Conference in Doha, Qatar. The focus of this meeting should be on identifying strategies for expanding communications infrastructure and access to telecommunications for the developing world. As this will be the first major ITU conference after the World Summit on the Information Society, all telecommunications eyes will be on Doha.

At the APEC TEL April meeting, all of us from Pacific Rim economies should follow through on last year's APEC ministerial meeting, with renewed energy toward solving the problems of cyber-crime and to expanding our citizens' access to the Internet. We should seek policies that make better use of next-generation information technology and increase broadband access.

November will be pivotal, as the ITU holds its once-every-four-years plenipotentiary treaty-writing meeting. We will vote on the hotly contested elections for secretary-general and four other senior positions. Selecting the right leadership will be vital to keeping the ITU both relevant and focused on its critically important mission.

This coming year promises exciting times for telecom in Asia, and the US is certainly not alone in hoping that governments will stay the course of reform. A few examples come to mind.

Korea's telecom trade partners hope that it will implement fully its stated policy of supporting the development and use of international, voluntary standards applied in a flexible and technology-neutral manner, and that do not serve as market barriers to foreign-developed telecommunications technologies.

Telecom observers focused on Japan would welcome moves to transfer regulatory functions to an independent agency not under ministerial authority and to eliminate legal requirements for the government to own NTT shares.

In China progress on the draft telecom act has been notable, and we look forward to public consultations with all stakeholders, including foreign investors early this year before the key provisions are finalized. Many of China's telecom trade partners, the US included, believe that relaxation of controls on the Internet and content would not only be a step forward in human rights, but would also help reassure foreign investors while helping China make further economic progress.

Thailand's telecom trade partners are looking for continued progress in developing a transparent regulatory environment that encourages the use of new technologies. Issuance of outstanding telecom licenses, establishing a regime for interconnection charges, liberalization of the international gateway and the further liberalization of Internet telephony can only help spur further foreign investment.

In Vietnam continued progress toward an open and competitive telecom market is a key to attracting foreign capital and the creation of high-value jobs. Strengthening the telecom regulator could help increase opportunities for new entrants in a market where state-owned enterprises dominate.

India's telecom trade partners hope that 2006 will bring continued liberalization and forward-looking spectrum policies. India's telecom sector has made remarkable progress in a short amount of time, and the responsible government officials have shown remarkable leadership regarding both telecoms policy making and IT.

I have only scratched the surface of the work to be done in 2006, but the opportunities are truly exciting. We should all roll up our sleeves and get down to business, with a view toward making this the most productive year ever in Pacific Rim telecom policy making.

Ambassador David Gross is the US Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy

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