Execs ask regulators to move fast

In the fast-paced world of Internet-based communications, even regulators have to move at 'Net speed.

That was the message top industry executives gave here yesterday at the opening of the regulatory and policy summit, which takes place this week parallel to the Telecom 99 exhibition.

"Time is of the essence," said Alcatel SA Chairman Serge Tchuruk. If the pace of standardisation on vital issues such as the next generation of mobile telephones does not move fast enough, it will kill market opportunities, according to the chairman of the French telecommunications equipment maker.

In most cases, that means changing the way bodies, such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), function, according to several speakers. The ITU is the organiser of Telecom 99.

The approach used by regulators until now will simply not get the job done, said Michael Armstrong AT&T's chairman and chief executive officer, in his remarks.

"When we jump ahead 100 years, we will ask did technology deliver real progress to people around the world, and did that progress come quickly, or was it too slow because we clung to the 20th century regulatory model? " Armstrong said.

A new service can be obsolete by the time new standards are even agreed to, the two industry executives agreed. Although both Armstrong and Tchuruk also said that the telecommunications market can largely take care of itself, they did concede that global frameworks are needed. Particular areas which need such guidelines are encryption and electronic commerce-related issues, such as maintaining privacy, Tchuruk said.

Jens Arnsbak, the head of the Netherlands' regulatory agency, the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority, also spoke out for developing what he called "soft law," which in his words means flexible guidelines rather than a rigid framework.

Regulators must frequently always ask themselves if they can do a better job than the market in aiding the public interest, Arnsbak said. They must also pose the question of whether the benefits of technology are being shared globally.

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