This fully updated seventh edition of The Technology, Media and Telecommunications Review provides an overview of evolving legal constructs in 28 jurisdictions around the world. It is intended as a business-focused framework for both start-ups and established companies, as well as an overview for those interested in examining evolving law and policy in the rapidly changing TMT sector.
Broadband connectivity and wireless services continue to drive law and policy in this sector. The disruptive effect of new technologies and new ways of communicating creates challenges around the world as regulators seek to facilitate the deployment of state-of-the-art communications infrastructure to all citizens and also to use the limited radio spectrum more efficiently than before. At the same time, technological innovation makes it commercially practical to use large segments of ‘higher’ parts of the radio spectrum for the first time. Moreover, the global nature of TMT companies compels them to address these issues in different ways than before.
A host of new demands, such as the developing ‘Internet of Things,’ the need for broadband service to aeroplanes, vessels, motor vehicles and trains, and the general desire for faster and better mobile broadband service no matter where we go, create pressures on the existing spectrum environment. Regulators are being forced to both (1) ‘refarm’ existing spectrum bands, so that new services and technologies can access spectrum previously set aside for businesses that either never developed or no longer have the same spectrum needs, and (2) facilitate spectrum sharing between different services in ways previously not contemplated. Many important issues are being studied as part of the preparation for the next World Radio-communication Conference to be held in 2019. No doubt, this conference will lead to changes in long-standing radio spectrum allocations that have not kept up with advances in technology, and it should also address the flexible ways that new technologies allow many different services to co-exist in the same segment of spectrum.
Legacy terrestrial telecommunications networks designed primarily for voice are being upgraded to support the broadband applications of tomorrow that will extend economic benefits, educational opportunities and medical services throughout the world. As a result, many governments are investing in or subsidising broadband networks to ensure that their citizens can participate in the global economy, and have universal access to the vital information, entertainment and educational services now delivered over broadband. Many governments are re-evaluating how to regulate broadband providers, whose networks have become essential to almost every citizen. Convergence, vertical integration and consolidation also lead to increased focus on competition and, in some cases, to changes in the government bodies responsible for monitoring and managing competition in the TMT sector. Similarly, many global companies now are able to focus their regulatory activities outside their traditional home, and in jurisdictions that provide the most accommodating terms and conditions.
Changes in the TMT ecosystem, including increased opportunities to distribute video content over broadband networks, have led to policy focuses on issues such as ‘network neutrality’ – the goal of providing some type of stability for the provision of the important communications services on which almost everyone relies, while also addressing the opportunities for mischief that can arise when market forces work unchecked. While the stated goals of that policy focus are laudable, the way in which resulting law and regulation are implemented has profound effects on the balance of power in the sector, and also raises important questions about who should bear the burden of expanding broadband networks to accommodate the capacity strains created by content providers and to facilitate their new businesses.
The following chapters describe these types of developments around the world, as well as the developing liberalisation of foreign ownership restrictions, efforts to ensure consumer privacy and data protection, and measures to ensure national security and facilitate law enforcement. Many tensions exist among the policy goals that underlie the resulting changes in the law. Moreover, cultural and political considerations often drive different responses at the national and the regional level, even though the global TMT marketplace creates a common set of issues.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of the contributors for their insightful contributions to this publication and I hope you will find this global survey a useful starting point in your review and analysis of these fascinating developments in the TMT sector.
John P Janka
Latham & Watkins LLP