20th - ITS BIENNIAL CONFERENCE
30 Nov 2014 10h - 03 Dez 2014 20h Hotel Sheraton
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Background of the Conference
Over the past three decades, telecommunications markets have undergone substantial changes due to phenomena such as the emergence of mobile telephony and its gradual convergence with fixed; but also the convergence with media and IT markets and the ongoing transition towards IP-based Internet platforms powered by broadband communications. As a result, the boundaries between these previously separated markets have blurred to such an extent that today, players originating in different economic sectors compete for the same customers along a single, integrated value chain: incumbent telcos compete with nomadic players, such as Skype or Google, and with emerging cloud providers; at the same time, application providers are eroding the revenues of upstream players such as broadcasters and content owners.
Along with this transition, also the landscape of e-communications policy has been dramatically changing. Telecoms policy emerged in the 1980s mostly with a focus on privatization of former monopolists and market liberalization, and evolved during the 1990s into a combination of access policy and universal service obligations. The major trade-off that has emerged over time is how to reconcile the need to provide incentives to invest in new infrastructure with the need to open up existing networks to new entrants. For example, in the US and the EU this trade-off has been approached very differently during the past decade: in the US, after the AT&T breakup in 1984, the 1996 Communications Act endorsed access policy as the dominant paradigm for the liberalization of copper networks; however, the need to stimulate broadband deployment led the FCC to lift regulatory obligations and switch to “regulatory holidays” for DSL and FTTx investments between 2003 and 2005. In the EU, after the first phase of the “open network provisions” (ONP) in the 1990s, the “new” 2002 framework led to the emergence of the “investment ladder” approach, which dominated the scene for almost a decade despite evidence of a lack of new infrastructure investment. The only adjustment foreseen by the European Commission was the award of an additional risk premium on access charges to account for investment risk, but nothing more. Only very recently, with the Connected Continent proposal presented in September 2013, the European Commission seems to have adopted a more flexible approach.
More generally, looking at leading countries in broadband deployment, such as South Korea and Japan, what emerges is that every regulator has chosen a different mix of investment and competition - or, one would say, static and dynamic efficiency - to serve the interest of consumers. And emerging economies are learning from past experience: for Example, Brasil is now discussing the introduction of a 9-year “regulatory forbearance” period for investment in high-speed broadband.
But this is only part of the story. While the querelle on access policy v. regulatory forbearance is still raging, other chapters of this saga have been opened, as traditional narrowband communications were evolving into broadband platforms. Today, the decision whether to invest in infrastructure is not only governed by the existence of regulatory obligations at the infrastructure layer; to the contrary, the approach adopted at the logical layer, in particular for what concerns the possibility of managing traffic over the Internet, significantly affects the possibility to monetize infrastructure investment: no one wants to invest to build a “dumb pipe”, on which others will likely free ride. The “net neutrality” debate has been approached in different ways in major global economies: for example, guidelines on traffic shaping have been adopted since a long time in Japan; in the US, the possibility of managing traffic has been denied for a long time, in the aftermath of the Madison River case, but a recent decision by the D.C. Court of Appeals (FCC v. Verizon) seems likely to pave the way towards “specialized services” over the Internet; and while the European Commission has taken a rather balanced view, countries like the Netherlands have opted for mandatory neutrality, with very few exceptions. A common solution to the net neutrality problem around the world seems to rely on the application of competition policy rules, coupled with ex ante regulation aimed at securing the transparency of broadband subscription offers. However, the same rationale that backs the net neutrality argument can easily be re-proposed in terms of “search neutrality” and “cloud neutrality”, to name the most widely quoted. Accordingly, it is still unclear whether the net neutrality debate will evolve (or is already evolving) towards the definition of basic principles for all Internet players.
At the same time, one layer up, broadcasters and content owners are currently seeing most of their revenues eroded by global, nomadic players who retransmit content without necessarily settling copyright issues in advance. The evolution of new media platforms is already leading to a major war on copyright - not simply a war over illegal downloads, but also a war on (re)transmission rights, with broadcasters on one side, and Google/Youtube and similar media companies on the other.
Today, Internet policy encompasses all these fronts: at each layer, policymakers have to make tragic choices. The sustainability of the Internet model crucially depends on all these choices, not just on what is done at the infrastructure layer. The debate is still raging today, especially after the unsuccessful conclusion of the WCIT conference in Dubai (December 2012), which saw a split between countries that favoured a stronger government involvement in Internet regulation and countries that defended the current, privately led multi-stakeholder model. The Datagate scandal originated from Ed Snowden’s leaks has further contributed to this debate: how “neutral” is the Internet environment today? And how neutral should it be in the future? Should governments be allowed to inspect packets in order to ensure public security? Should businesses be allowed to inspect packets to manage traffic efficiently? What would this mean for the end users, in particular for what concerns their fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of expression?
Against this background, for the 20th ITS Biennial, we propose a broad main theme, which will guide the selection of main panels and parallel session tracks.
THE NET AND THE INTERNET: EMERGING MARKETS AND POLICIES
The Conference will adopt a “layered” approach to the study of emerging markets policies in cyberspace. At the same time, locating the conference in Rio de Janeiro is also a perfect opportunity to discuss internet policy not only in developed, industrialized economies, but also in emerging and developing countries. Brazil will be at the core of the internet policy debate in 2014, starting with the global summit on Internet governance to be held in April in São Paulo.
1) Infrastructure layer (the “net”)
- Public and private investment in broadband infrastructure
- Government policies to stimulate broadband take up
- Sharing passive infrastructure: from ducts to clearinghouses
- Demand-side policies for broadband
- Spectrum policy and wireless broadband (including hybrid technologies)
- Retail and wholesale prices in telecom networks: emerging trends and theories
- The Internet of Things
- Critical information infrastructure protection: enhancing resilience
2) Logical and application layers (the “Internet”)
- Net neutrality and traffic management
- Application neutrality and interoperability
- Search neutrality between regulation and competition policy
- Platform competition in cyberspace
- The evolving architecture of the Internet: platforms and clouds
- Emerging business models in the cloud computing age
- Antitrust and consumer protection in cyberspace
3) Content layer
- Copyright protection in cyberspace
- Media pluralism and freedom of expression in the Internet age
- The future of user-generated content
- Present and future of television
- Social networks and the future of content delivery
- Big data: where is the limit?
4) Internet policy and governance
- Internet policy around the world
- The future of Internet governance
- Public and private (self- and co-) regulation on the Internet
- Security and data protection after Datagate
5) Beyond telecoms: the transformational power of IT)
- M2M and the future of devices
- Broadband communications and the future of society
- Smart cities, smart transport, smart grids
- Transforming government through ICT: the future of e-democracy
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