Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Communications Regulation On the Isle of Man

The Communications Commission of the Isle of Man has invited comments on three options for the future: the status quo, adoption of a European Union or a bespoke approach to regulation. The details provided are very limited, especially of the third option, with many issues omitted or glossed over. The EU approach would be likely to be regulatory overkill for a small island which, without justification, should never have been presented as a viable option. The bespoke option is insufficiently defined to make analysis possible.

The government should consider issuing a white paper setting out its economic and social objectives from the communications sector and directing the Communications Commission to ensure that they are delivered, with monitoring by Tynwald (e.g., consideration of an annual report from the Communications Commission). It should not move the existing statutory competition law powers from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) as proposed, but instead create a memorandum of understanding between OFT and the Communications Commission on their use in telecommunications. It might also consider moving the Communications Commission powers into the OFT. The Communications Commission should create mechanisms to monitor markets, including the views of consumers and business users. The transparency of the Communications Commission should be greatly improved.

A key decision for government is whether it wants the regulator to be independent and if so, how it is to be funded. Provision would have to be made for appeals on the merits of decisions.

It is necessary to review the needs of financial sector for telecommunications services and to identify appropriate benchmarks for comparison with offshore financial centres in Europe and in the Caribbean.

Given the apparent threat of disputes between operators, a system of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) seems to be necessary.

Much stress has been placed on the early launch of 3G and the failure to repeat this for 4G. An analysis of the benefits of 3G would make this more convincing.

It would be very beneficial to liaise with governments and regulatory authorities in the other Crown Dependencies, and in the overseas territories of Denmark, Netherlands, the UK and the USA, plus the French Départements d’outremer. There are many lessons to be shared on the regulation of communications in small markets.

No convincing case has been made for a new statute, though secondary legislation may be necessary, if the powers available to the OFT can be shown to be insufficient.

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