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13 February 2015
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NBTC Bill likely to ‘help big firms, not civil society’

THE NEW National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission Bill is less likely to benefit people or civil society than large businesses and state enterprises, an industry expert said yesterday.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich, president of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), said the bill was not meant to address existing problems of the NTBC, such as good governance, transparency of public participation or accountability.

Speaking at an NBTC Policy Watch forum, he raised five uncertainties surrounding the bill.

First, there is no guarantee it will be used according to the bill’s principles. Second, there is no guarantee that broadcast and telecommunications frequencies will be used efficiently.

Third, there is no guarantee that the government will not intervene to change the NBTC’s regulations. Fourth, there is no guarantee that the new legislation will help improve the NBTC’s governance.

Finally, there is no guarantee that an auction of licences for fourth-generation bandwidth will take place in the near future.
“All these questions can lead society to believe it is possible that the government might conspire with the private sector, which does not want to have a 4G auction,” Somkiat said.

He was referring to a study by CIMB that highlights three scenarios for the 4G auctions.

First, the auctions take place in July or August this year for both the 1,800- and 900-megahertz spectra, Advanced Info Service will benefit, while True will not. Second, if there only the 1,800MHz spectrum comes up for bid, AIS will benefit, while Total Access Communication (DTAC) will not. Third, if there is no 4G auction at all, True will benefit, while AIS will not.

He added that there should be collaboration between the government and all stakeholders to improve all the “digital economy” bills, not just the one regarding the NBTC.

“Even though the government has shown it is positive and is willing to improve the bills, civil society and the public should be empowered to monitor how the bills are processed, and a committee should be set up to develop the bills in parallel,” Somkiat said.

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First Published:  The Nation, February 12, 2015

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