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AMARC WCIT/CMTI Dubai 2012: Freedom of Expression is a Fundamental Human Right

Tue, 12/11/2012 - 18:38 -- ricardo

Convergence is a technological fact
Neutrality is an economical choice
Regulation is a political choice.

Montreal, December 7, 2012. The World Association fo Community radio Broadcasters, AMARC, calls upon States, freedom of expression activists and civil society organizations gathered in Dubai, United Emirates, for the Conference of the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, to preserve broadcast spectrum as a public good of humanity.

The tates are the guardians of a balanced access to spectrum in order to bridge the digital divide, and to preserve media diversity and pluralism.

AMARC is particularly keen in preserving acquired spectrum resources historically allocated to radio and to increase them as a result of the new “digital dividend”.

AMARC recalls that access to radio must be universal, free and anonymous, and that access to spectrum by local community radio stations, that have public service mission must be strengthened and facilitated in order to contribute to cultural diversity, freedom of information and security.

The spectrum resource is limited. Accordingly, an International Telecommunication Regulation (ITRs) was adopted by the Assembly of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 1988. This regulation allows states to grant the resource to all types of users, to harmonize its use worldwide, and set the limits and obligations depending on the type of user: satellites, telecoms, civil aviation, army, radio and television, hospitals, ...

Since the 80s, digitalization of the transport of the signal, does allow for better management of the resource and an appearance of technological "neutrality" of its operation. The major telecommunication operators have a dominant position and need increasingly larger bands of frequencies, thus becoming potentially interested in controlling the entire spectrum resource. Thanks to cell phones, they are the only ones able to make the large investments needed for 3-G and 4-G. This is a major change in comparison with the 80s, when the states did that type of investment. The expansion of Internet telephony requires new resources. But the Internet market is dominated by an alliance of private telecom group and some Internet Service Providers, some of which come from the computer world.

Today, there is need for a second international regulation to be established in Dubai. Large telecoms consortiums and computing industry are in favor of the "technological neutrality" of the spectrum, that is to say, that they should have the right to buy and sell all parts of the spectrum, including those between States. They have already almost succeeded in Europe.
The issues are both economic and political. In order to finance further development of the global Internet, the issue of interconnection (convergence) of various actors is at the center of the Dubai conference.
In order to meet the growing demand for bandwidth and the increasing costs of technological investment, the economic model based on a fair share of value between telecoms, editors and content producers is being questioned. In Dubai, Telecoms pressure the ITU and the States, to establish a two-tiered Internet system. The minimum guaranteed quality of service (imposed by the ITU in 1988, and many states), and a parallel, good quality premium system to be paid by users.

AMARC considers that we should not overlook the impact of these telecoms requests on cultural, economic and social levels and particularly on freedom of information and cultural diversity.
The international regulation of networks’ broadcast must not lead to the disappearance or to bypass the international, regional and national dispositions that ensure the production and dissemination of local and independent contents, the diversity of producers and diffusers of culture, music and information.
Convergence and network neutrality would allow telecom giants to make economies of scale that are not on the reach of national and local editors. This results in unequal competition. This competition is detrimental to diversity and freedom of expression.

AMARC calls on states and actors of civil society gathered in Dubai, to preserve national and international mechanisms supporting cultural diversity and freedom of expression.
This involves the principle of controlling the allocation of frequencies to private commercial business;
This involves maintaining the fundamental and universal principle telecom of taxation of telecoms whose products should be reallocated to cultural diversity and freedom of expression.
This requires strengthening independent regulation authorities that must have the authority to manage the spectrum in a pluralistic framework, including for the benefit of local public service media;
This implies the existence of a significant part of the spectrum resource reserved for local publishers and producers, including local and community radio.

Through service to members, networking and project implementation, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters AMARC, brings together a network of more than 4,000 community radios, Federations and community media stakeholders in more than 130 countries. The main global impact of AMARC since its creation in 1983, has been to accompany and support the establishment of a worldwide community radio sector that has democratized the media sector. AMARC advocates for the right to communicate at the international, national, local and neighborhood levels and defends and promotes the interests of the community radio movement through solidarity, networking and Cooperation. For further information visit http://www.amarc.org

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