regulation Archives — Page 3 of 7


There is no debate that the laws governing the telecom/ICT sector in Sri Lanka are among the most convoluted. So I have some sympathy for the people who write about it. But I assume they are paid for their work and they have a duty to check their facts. The excerpt below is just one example of the erroneous analysis that is published in documents with international circulation, and then get quoted and reified as the truth about Sri Lanka: Under a constitutional amendment forced through by the Rajapaksa regime and ratified in 2011—which also removed presidential term limits—the president was able to appoint the heads and members of all commissions, subverting legislative guarantees for the independence of the TRC and other statutory institutions.[36] In April 2015, President Sirisena and his interim government were able to undo this stranglehold on democratic processes by introducing and ratifying the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which empowered independent commissions in the country and restored term limits to the presidency.
Today, I had to field questions on behalf of Shazna Zuhyle and Grace Mirandilla Santos who made a canned presentation at CPRsouth 10 in Taipei on Measuring Broadband Performance: Lessons Learnt, Challenges Faced, because they could not be present in person. The principal question asked by the discussant (from Australia) and Enrico Calandro (Italy/South Africa) was why Zuhyle and Mirandilla Santos were proposing that national regulatory agencies (NRAs) should take on the responsibilities of broadband quality monitoring. Another person from the floor asked why Philippines and Asian broadband quality and value for money were so poor. I saw the answers to both questions as being connected. I said that the paper very clearly established that there was no one single method that was objectively superior to the alternatives.
The telecom and broadcast licensing regime in Sri Lanka is obsolete. Broadcast licenses are issued under obscure provisions of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Acts. The licenses have no terms and fees are to be informed in the future. Telecom service providers, including Internet Service Providers, are licensed under section 17 of the Sri Lanka Telecommunications Act, No. 25 of 1991 as amended.

Network economics and regulation

Posted on April 14, 2015  /  2 Comments

Sri Lanka has decided to fully liberalize a white-elephant airport, an unusual act in this network industry which is riddled with protections for national flag carriers. Taking a respite from the Constitutional matters that preoccupy most Sri Lankans these days, I shared some ideas on the prospects for the fully liberalized airport with a journalist. These thoughts are more fully fleshed out in an op-ed that will appear shortly. Airlines are usually drawn to airports which give fifth freedoms, or the right to pick up passengers on the way to a third destinations, which is restricted by many countries to give a privilege to – usually – a badly run state-run domestic carrier. “Fifth freedom rights are valuable where there is are passengers to pick up,” explains Rohan Samarajiva of LirneAsia, a regional think tank based in Colombo.
This is a problem that comes up in countries that LIRNEasia works in. In Bangladesh and India, where the government-owned telcos were not privatized, they are on life support. Based possibly on comments made by entities such as LIRNEasia, the government of Myanmar has chosen to effectively hand over the management of its government-owned telco to KDDI. Here is a discussion of the problem in general terms, discussed in the Sri Lankan media in the context of the good governance debate that is running through the country in the aftermath of the recent Presidential election: Is the Government willing to list a majority of the commercial organisations it owns in the stock market? Is it willing to allow the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) to divest or acquire shares in the market as needed?
I was asked to participate in panel that posited a series of questionable propositions as its starting point. “Regulation was becoming less relevant; ITU had done a good job building regulatory capacity; now it needed to find new things to do” is a rough paraphrase. We have now fully emerged from an environment where service and carriage were tightly related, and where regulation was self-contained within a single organisation. New dimensions today include some where the ITU is a participating entity in a broader formal regulatory canvass, and some where facilitation relies on multi-stakeholder freewheeling market forces such as are associated with the Internet. This represents a challenging cultural change for the ITU to establish its active participating role.

ITU: From regulation to . . . ?

Posted on December 8, 2014  /  1 Comments

So I have been invited to participate in the panel moderated by Tim Unwin that is described below. I did not use the session title, “balancing participation and facilitation” because that does not seem to correctly reflect the language in the descriptive paragraph below. We have now fully emerged from an environment where service and carriage were tightly related, and where regulation was self-contained within a single organisation. New dimensions today include some where the ITU is a participating entity in a broader formal regulatory canvass, and some where facilitation relies on multi-stakeholder freewheeling market forces such as are associated with the Internet. This represents a challenging cultural change for the ITU to establish its active participating role.
Christoph Stork and Alison Gillwald have been engaged with the real-world problem of high mobile termination rates in Southern Africa for several years. Perhaps the earliest intervention was with the Namibian Communication Commission in 2009. Then there were repeated engagements in South Africa. We know, from our experience, that policy engagement does not leave a lot of time for academic publication. But it’s not that our colleagues did not try to publish in academic journals.
In today’s Financial Express, Sudhir Shah and Payal Malik conclude their assessment of the work of Tirole and Laffont (who would have been a co-recipient had he lived) concludes thus: The institutional context for Tirole’s work is also important. While Tirole and numerous collaborators have built a sophisticated theory to guide regulators and thereby accorded regulators an important institutional space in market economies, subsequent work recognises the institutional and political-economy constraints on regulators. It was pointed out, especially by Laffont, that it is important to recognise that effective regulation is hampered by the weak institutional environment of developing countries, which results in the regulatory contract between governments and firms being incomplete. It is vital that the political system provides a clear objective and mandate to a regulator. The regulator should have the legal basis and the incentives to pursue her mandate.
Setting the Scene Focus Session – Tuesday, September 2 • 11:00am – 12:30pm Sub-themes for IGF 2014 a) POLICIES ENABLING ACCESS Speaker: Rohan Samarajiva, LirneAsia, Sri Lanka Rohan will provide a bird’s eye view on progress and challenges in achieving affordable access for all. He will highlight controversial issues that came up in the last year, such as:  net neutrality  role of governments and regulators vs role of markets: are we getting the balance right so that the benefits get to those who need it most?  access for all: public access, access for the poorest of the poor, access for people with disability Virat Bhatia will provide a review of how the topic will be discussed at the IGF 2014 at workshops and in the ‘access’ main session. Policies Enabling Access, Growth and Development on the Internet, Main session –Wednesday, September 3, 0930-1200 Here, Rohan Samarajiva will speak on policies conducive to Internet use. Workshop No.
I resisted the notion that we should start our work on guidelines for”big data” from the settled law of other jurisdictions. I did not do that in 1987 when I did one of the earliest policy studies on ICTs and the law in Sri Lanka, and I was not about to start in 2013. I had reservations about both the chaotic and piecemeal nature of US privacy law and the over-bureaucratic nature of European law that made even a simple list of course attendees a subject of “data protection” enforced by a Data Protection Commissioner. In addition, I sensed that big data was a qualitative jump from what existed before and it was wrong to simply extrapolate from the existing law. Looks like I was right.
On the face any money coming into Myanmar to help develop its creaking infrastructure is good. When the money is given on concessionary terms, it appears even better. But it is important to look beyond appearance. Will it harm competition, which is the government’s chosen (and proven) instrument to develop the ICT infrastructure? Japan said Saturday it will extend a total of ¥10.
If not for a degree of regulatory duplication, it’s possible that the AT&T breakup that transformed the entire telecom environment would not have happened. On the other hand, it’s the general competition regulator who did the job that the sector regulator failed to do. Nevertheless, countries that have limited human resources to deliver effective regulation and have a need for certainty, cannot afford duplication and forum shopping. Here is an interesting reflection from Payal Malik and a colleague on the current situation in India: The Supreme Court in Subrata Roy Sahara vs Union of India lamented the posturing antics of litigants aimed at forum shopping. It has stated that such antics result in cases “which ought to have been settled in no time at all, before the first court of incidence, [being] prolonged endlessly, for years and years, and from court to court, upto the highest court”.
Eighteen members of Parliament from six different political parties, including the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and the opposition National League for Democracy, assembled before start time this past weekend for an ICT awareness program organized by the Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO) where LIRNEasia supplied the content. They then stayed engaged throughout, asked many questions and asked for more. This was a unique experience that, in our view, bodes well for the country. The harmonious interactions among politicians from different parties were impressive. But even more was the genuine interest in learning about the changes that were coming to their country.
Ownership matters. That is why we take special precautions when the incumbent telecom operator is owned by the government. There is a tendency for the government to want to look after its creature, even if it means that the “playing field” is tilted against private competitors by the regulator. It’s been a long time since the government of Fiji “privatized” the government department that provided fixed telephony services. But the new owner was not a truly private entity, but the Pension Fund.

New thinking on regulation

Posted on June 26, 2014  /  0 Comments

I was of the view that all the innovations in regulation were occurring in the developing world (or by scholars working on developing country regulation). I was wrong. It appears that very interesting work is going on at Harvard, possibly in response to the US crisis in regulation: “Weak capture” (defined as special-interest influence compromising “the capacity of regulation to enhance the public interest, but the public interest is still being served by regulation”) may be nearly ubiquitous. But where some net social benefit remains, so does the case for regulation—perhaps modified, but not abandoned. Resorting to analogy again, Carpenter and Moss suggest consulting the history of medicine: Just as physicians once believed that the only effective way to treat infection was to cut it out surgically, it is commonplace today to believe that capture can only be treated by “amputating” the offending regulation.