The aim of regulating the communications industry is to promote competition in the area of the supply of communications services and products, and to seek to prevent anti-competitive behaviour by companies in a position to dominate the market. This has been the case ever since the liberalisation of the industry in the UK.
Ofcom is the regulatory authority within the UK and of course it also acts within the auspices of the European Union in this area, which has a similar perspective based around liberalisation.
Prospect actively seeks to influence the regulatory environment in which companies employing Prospect members operate. Within the context of our own policies on the communications industry, we respond to key consultation documents produced both by Ofcom and by government ministries both at the UK level and, where possible, with the devolved authorities. Within the European framework, we work within UNI, the international trade union to which Prospect is affiliated, and are represented on UNI's panel of regulatory specialists.
On Prospect's agenda currently are the following main policy issues:
1.The promotion of investment Ofcom bases its regulatory interventions solely on the promotion of competition. At a time when both fixed and mobile industries have immense investment requirements to deliver high-speed broadband and to cope with the data explosion, the 'ever faster for ever cheaper' consumer model, at a time of falling real revenues, risks inhibiting essential investment and the industry's future growth. We believe that the regulation of the sector must therefore urgently prioritise the ability of all network operators to invest and that Ofcom needs a new statutory duty in this regard.
2. A role for the public sector There must be a clearly-defined role for the public sector in support of what the private sector is prepared to do. The market alone will not deliver high-speed broadband cohesively right the way across the country but, furthermore, achieving the laudable, but ambitious, aims for the UK to have 'the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015' will require a much greater role for public sources of finance than has been envisaged so far.
3. A national broadband plan In contrast for example to the US, in the UK we are much less clear about how we are going to go about achieving our ambitions. We believe that, if a new communications framework is to be coherent as well as to have a chance of delivering its aims, a clear strategy must be set down and effective and achievable, and stretching, action plans drawn up for implementing it.
In addition, we are developing policies and lines of approach on a number of other issues including:
- cloud computing
- network neutrality
- mobile spectrum and roaming