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Where cables land: a still from an impressive animation by Business Insider on submarine cables around the world, produced from TeleGeography’s Submarine Cable Map, a free resource that allows data to be downloaded.
ofcom leads in review stakes
This year is turning out to be pivotal in the review of communications frameworks, with the European Union review being the most prominent on the international stage (see page 3), and other major decisions on elements such as net neutrality, by the US FCC, also attracting global interest. UK regulator, Ofcom has embarked on one of the most farreaching national reviews of the entire communications model, and the organisation has also commissioned several studies that are of wide interest. In its ongoing strategic review, taking place ten years after the previous one, Ofcom is consulting on four main areas:
- Investment and innovation – including examining how regulation can enable the development of ultrafast broadband. Ofcom has already mandated that 4G broadband will reach 98% of UK premises.
- Competition – this includes a possible big decision about the Openreach wholesale network operation, which is owned by BT. Complete separation or deregulation to promote competition are mooted.
- Empowering customers – a review of information provision and better options for switching services, including in mobile and TV bundles.
- Targeted regulation and deregulation – the review "will identify where existing regulation may be simplified, removed or replaced. For example, the rise of over the top internet communications services, such as instant messaging, may create a case for less regulation on mobile operators, or for extending existing rules to internet-based services."
Among research commissioned to inform debate, one that has attracted attention is the dry-sounding 'Traffic management detection methods and tools', which some commentators have hailed as a landmark report in the net neutrality debate (see separate news item on page 3).
Another report carried out for Ofcom is an analysis of the drivers of superfast broadband, by WIG-Consult. It finds that "although some have claimed that regulatory policies such as forbearance on access to nextgeneration networks may stimulate deployment, we did not find proof that this was the case. Nor did we find at the other extreme that structural separation necessarily provides better outcomes for consumers. In general, regulatory factors appear to have had less influence than marketbased factors such as infrastructure competition or online video."
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