On October 17, 2017, the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications in Colombia submitted a draft bill to Congress to create a single independent regulator to oversee the IT, TV, and broadcasting sectors. The new regulator, the Communications Commission, would replace the Commission for the Regulation of Communications (CRC) and take on the remit of the National Television Authority (ANTV), which would be dissolved. The Ministry expects the reformed regulatory body to better reflect the converging nature of these sectors.
Convergent regulators have to adapt and transform regulations to respond to market changes and remove regulatory overlap
The proposal in Colombia to combine communications and TV regulators into a larger, more independent and convergent regulatory body should ensure there is a better regulatory response to the changing dynamics of these sectors. Processes can be streamlined and regulations adapted. The creation of a more consistent regulatory framework should result in the removal of any overlap between regulators that might currently exist.
The Communications Commission will comprise five commissioners appointed for a fixed term of six years, without the possibility of re-election. Two of the commissioners will be appointed by the Colombian President, while the remaining three will be chosen by universities representing civil society. A transition period of four years will see the existing members of the National Television Authority and the commissioners of the CRC take up roles as commissioners of the Communications Commission, before the new board members are selected.
The bill will need to go through four debates in the Senate and the House of Representatives before it can be passed by the President. If passed, the reform would see the redistribution and consolidation of regulatory responsibilities. Under the new regime, the Ministry would continue to set IT, TV, and broadcasting policies and oversee their control and monitoring. The Communications Commission would be responsible for all regulation and granting of licenses, while the National Spectrum Agency (ANE) would remain the advisory body for spectrum management, and consumer protection powers would still sit with the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce.
Vertical integration between network operators and content providers together with growing demand from consumers for bundles are understandably creating new challenges for regulators. This convergence has seen both traditional telecoms and traditional pay-TV operators offer consumers a range of packages that include voice, broadband, pay-TV, and mobile services. Regulators that are best placed to address these technological changes are those that oversee both telecoms and media and can adopt a technology-neutral approach in their regulatory models.
Colombia is therefore not the only country to have recognized the need to reform the way it regulates the media and communications sectors. In 2016, the Singaporean government initiated a similar restructuring process, integrating the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and the Media Development Authority (MDA) into the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and creating a separate body – the Government Technology Organisation (GTO) – solely focused on government digital development. In 2013, the Mexican telecoms sector underwent major reform, with the consolidation of three regulatory bodies into a single regulator, the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT), to oversee telecoms and broadcasting.
This trend is only set to continue as the sectors converge even more, particularly as regulatory convergence is not yet fully established, even in mature markets. Many of the EU28 still do not have a single body overseeing both broadcasting and telecoms. Resisting or ignoring this process will mean that providers and operators face inconsistent regulatory frameworks, which would ultimately risk stifling future communications development and investment.
Colombia (Country Regulation Overview),TE0007-001103 (January 2017)
"Singapore restructures telecoms and media regulators, creating two new authorities”, TE0007-000979 (January 2016)
Sarah McBride, Analyst, Regulation