Open spectrum in Ecuador: The debate must extend beyond the circle of experts
By AF for APCNoticias
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, 21 March 2012
The APC initiative “Open spectrum for development” aims to improve knowledge of the regulation of the spectrum through studies of the situation in Africa, Asia and Latin America. As part of this project five countries of Latin America presented reports on their national spectrum situation. APC spoke with Marco Navas Alvear (CIESPAL), author of the national report of Ecuador.
APC: What do you see as the main opportunities and obstacles for the use of the spectrum to increase access to the internet in Ecuador, particularly for social and community use?
Marco Navas Alvear (MNA): First of all it is important for civil society to know about the issue, so they can participate – otherwise the discussion will just be between activists and circles of experts. Lack of knowledge of the issue and its importance are a huge obstacle. Another obstacle is the lobbying power of business groups that pressure to consolidate a purely commercial model for managing the spectrum. But the great opportunity for change is that we are in a political moment where new rules and regulations are being discussed for the telecommunications and media sector.
In that regard it is worth noting that the Ecuador report points to the need “to acquire competencies to systematize and maintain updated the technical and political information relevant to activism in defense of the democratization of the spectrum.”
As the report indicates, the participation of civil society in these reforms would be in line with the constitutional changes that open new opportunities for the democratization of the spectrum. “So that the legal framework is in line with the Constitution it will be necessary, in addition to these laws, to update other legal instruments like the National Telecommunications Development Plan, the Connectivity Plan, and to approve the Digital Transition Master Plan”, as it says in the national report.
APC: Do you think that there are conditions in the country to operate – even experimentally – in the so called “white spaces” of television?
MNA: I believe that a collaboration between sectors of the academy, universities that develop technology, and sectors of civil society can experiment with taking advantage of the white spaces of the spectrum, and at low cost even.
APC: Do you think there are other actors who should join the discussions on the use of the spectrum in the country? Do you think that the country is ready for this? Why?
*MNA: I believe that in Ecuador we have the conditions for reforms to democratize the telecommunications sector. It is important that civil – activist – society allies itself with other sectors of the population like neighborhoods and municipal districts. And also that the academy participates.
In this regard, Navas argues, in the summary of the national report, that “the discussion process is focused on and dominated by the technical debate, which is why it is necessary to refocus this discussion from a social and political perspective oriented to the democratization of information and communication technologies, and to gain allies in that process”.
APC: Do you think that the country meets the conditions necessary for carrying out an audit of the use of the spectrum? If so, do you think that your organization could participate in that process?
MNA: Yes the conditions exist and audits are necessary, in fact there are partial audits that show the concentration of frequencies, as in the case of radio and television. We would need to put forward a proposal for doing a global audit of the spectrum before discussing the new telecommunications law.
The new Ecuadoran constitution opened opportunities for the democratization of the spectrum. But it is clear that in the current political moment the participation of civil society is crucial for the discussion of legal reforms that are consistent with constitutional advances.
This is an interview of Marco Navas Alvear, author of the Ecuador national report, as part of the APC initiative Open spectrum for development, which aims to improve knowledge of spectrum regulation through studies of the situation in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This project is part of the `Action Research Network’ initiative, financed by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.
Photo by Blai Server. Used with permission under Creative Commons license 2.0