The paper aims to explore accountability as a virtue and as a mechanism (Bovens, 2010) of global telecommunication operators in the process of governing spectrum and of broadband development. The two concepts of accountability are juxtaposed with operators’ corporate reporting practices and spectrum licensing procedures of European national regulatory authorities (NRAs) and are analysed accordingly. The paper argues that spectrum licensing within the European Union regulatory context offers possible venues for policy intervention, rendering telecom providers to take an account on their global operations. Corruption is the case study to draw connections to public accountability, with a focus on the information and communication technology global market activity.
Spectrum bidding processes of European NRAs were analysed according to published documentation of auctions and to answers of NRAs on specific aspects of their licensing practices. Auctioning cases on 800 MHz band frequencies (790-862 MHz, or the “digital dividend”) were selected in countries where telecoms involved in corruption cases were based or where corrupt practices were revealed. Furthermore, a survey was carried out between 08 March and 03 June 2017 – coordinated by the Radio Spectrum Policy Group among its 28 members – on inquiring about licensing practices of NRAs during spectrum trading with respect to identifying beneficial ownership of bidders to spectrum.
Findings show that European NRAs are in possession of regulatory tools that could enforce telecoms’ public accountability; there are strong arguments on the need for European and national-level policy interventions. Spectrum licensing procedures are offering possible and potential venues of accountability. Further legislative action is necessary to adopt a minimum set of criteria applicable in the licensing process. Harmonised implementation by NRAs should further develop new standards fostering transparency.
Information about the ethical behaviour and corruption of European telecom operators is surprisingly scarce and unsystematic, particularly considering the centrality of those actors in advancing a number of the aims of the historical Millennium Development Goals and the new Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Research into the governance of spectrum as a possible venue of accountability, and the findings shed new light on regulatory aspects of telecommunication in a global perspective.
Rozgonyi, K. (2018), "The governance of spectrum: a possible venue of accountability for global telecommunication", Digital Policy, Regulation and Governance, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 273-287. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPRG-09-2017-0050Download as .RIS
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