Eleven tips for opening up the spectrum

By Evan Light
Publisher: APCNews     Montreal, 28 February 2011

Most communications policies around the globe have been developed on models based on the economic, political and social realities of North America and Europe – which assume large private companies build expansive national wired infrastructures. So laws and regulations have evolved with the understanding that these wired networks are the main communication infrastructure and that wireless networks connect through them. But wired networks do not exist in many developing countries and do not necessarily need to be built.

Wireless technology can aid developing nations in reducing the digital divide while being adapted to real infrastructural limitations. Wireless technology typically uses less electricity.

If countries encourage an open spectrum management, communities can more easily build their own communication networks. This means less administrative and financial burdens on central government and regulator, possibly freeing funds to facilitate the construction of these very networks. In addition, communities would have the opportunity to learn about these technologies and make direct decisions concerning their use.

What can you do to help advocate for open spectrum in your country?


1) Think about what your people’s communication needs are and how they related to broader social and economic needs. What is your capacity to meet them? Consider how an open spectrum approach can help you meet these needs. Facilitate inclusive and open public discussions on this.

2) Talk with policy-makers and civil society organisations inside and outside your country. Find out what projects are under development. Can they help you satisfy your communication needs? If so, is collaboration possible?

3) Facilitate broad and inclusive conversations with everybody in your country and encourage participation from individuals – women, men and children – as well as organisations of all kinds. Help your citizens to understand communication technology and regulation and what it means to their everyday lives. Assure they have an active role inn decision-making.

4) Support local technology development and local communication network ownership.

Civil society organisations

5) Talk with other civil society organisations in your country. Help them identify their communication needs and determine how open spectrum can help them meet their needs.

6) Establish regular communication with all levels of spectrum regulation in your country. Assure that they understand your perspectives and needs and the needs of the communities you represent. Regulation can be a collaborative process between government and users of the spectrum.

7) Establish collaborative relationships with technology-focused civil society organisations in your country and region. Find partners in all sectors of society (social, economic, political). Establish a diverse and united front oriented around common needs and solutions.

8) Hold public discussions on the spectrum and open spectrum management. Educate the public and make them an active part of your advocacy.

Media practitioners

9) Talk about the radio spectrum and open spectrum both in the media and among media practitioners.

10) Determine how the current system of spectrum regulation impedes and enables your ability to create and disseminate media. Knowing what your interests are, collaborate in advocacy with civil society organisations.

11) Use your media to educate the public on the spectrum and open spectrum management. Demystify technology and facilitate public interaction with the regulatory system.

This article was based on the policy brief Open spectrum for development by Evan Light .