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23 July 2014
Read in Minutes


NBTC ‘needs urgent reform’

Komsan Tortermvasana

Call for transparency, consumer protection

The national telecom regulator urgently needs to reform its management and operational structures and change impractical regulations to ensure functional transparency and promote greater awareness of consumer protection, say experts.

Some regulations and sections of telecom law, particularly the Frequency Allocation Act (FAA), appear designed to promote good governance by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), a seminar at Thammasat University heard yesterday.

But they lack sufficient incentives or publicity to encourage real industrial development and promote consumer benefits, according to academics and members of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI).

In addition, the FAA gives the NBTC too much authority to influence the decisions of its internal audit committee.

Prof Worapoj Wongkitrungrueng of both Thammasat University and the TDRI said at least five main issues needed to be changed to foster transparency.

The TDRI started looking into the details of the FAA and other key regulations last year, he said.

The NBTC wants to change the FAA to eliminate impractical sections and legal loopholes. Change proposals are expected to be completed next month and submitted to the junta for consideration.

Prof Worapoj said the NBTC must improve information accuracy, increase efficiency of monitoring and enforcement strategies and encourage a level playing field.

The NBTC has been unable to resolve consumer complaints within 30 days as required by consumer protection rules. Last year, at least 300 complaints about poor prepaid service were filed with the regulator but have not yet been resolved.

Prof Worapoj suggested an independent consumer protection panel be created, replacing the existing committee, to enhance efficiency.

He also said allocation of the NBTC’s fiscal budget should be processed under the state’s budget law instead of being approved by the NBTC’s board.

The National Committee for Peace and Order last Friday ordered the NBTC to suspend for one year spectrum auctions to provide 4G service. It wants the regulator to amend several impractical sections of the FAA before the auctions.

NBTC vice-chairman Col Settapong Malisuwan said he believed most of the 95 sections under the FAA should be amended to eliminate legal disputes and promote local telecom and broadcasting industries.

Section 45 is the priority, as it limits the NBTC to allocating frequencies only through the auction process.

Many industry experts believe the section has hindered the country’s telecommunications and broadcasting development, as unlicensed regimes have gained momentum internationally.



First published: Bangkok Post, July 22, 2014