Friday, November 29, 2013

UK - Scotland - Analysis of telecommunications, broadband and Internet proposals of the "white paper" on independence by the Scottish Government

A Short Note on Scotland's Future – The Internet, Broadband and Telecommunications

The Scottish Government has published its proposals for the future administration of an independent Scotland. This represents its case for a vote in favour of independence in September 2014 and the outline of its manifesto in the Scottish parliamentary elections planned for 2016, by when it hopes Scotland will have left the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Opinion polls continue to show that the plebiscite will fail, with only about one quarter of the electorate favouring independence. Scotland would become a member of the EU and comply with its acquis communitaire, join the Council of Europe, becoming a signatory to its conventions, and join the ITU adopting its Radio Regulations.

The Scottish Government has identified key economic sectors: energy, life sciences, creative industries, financial services, tourism, food & drink, and universities. It plans to reindustrialise the Scottish economy, focusing innovation.

The provisions for broadband, Internet and telecommunications remain vague and without a timetable. The institutional arrangements include a junior minister of communications within a Ministry of Culture, Communications & Digital, with a multi-sector economic regulator, a media regulator, a competition authority and a consumer protection body. Existing licences for a range of activities (e.g., broadcasting, gambling and telecommunications) would be “honoured”, though the mechanism is unexplained. It is unclear whether the existing UK legislation will be converted into Scottish statutes or whether the EU directives will be transposed from scratch.

Considerable attention is to be given to increasing services in rural areas, with calls for more fibre and 4G networks, notably with the announcement of 99% coverage obligations for 700 MHz mobile licences. Whereas, the low levels of adoption of broadband in urban Scotland are ignored, with no proposals to boost demand.

Scotland will not request an ITU country code, but seek to continue to use the UK code of 44. It will not use an ISO 3166 two-letter country code top level domain, but instead use dot Scot and the existing UK top level domains.

Based on the present EC legislative proposal (COM(2013)627), the Scottish Government maintains there would be neither roaming charges nor international charges for telephone calls between Scotland and the rest of the UK. This may not be enacted as proposed. Significant omissions include provision for regulators of advertising and gambling. There is no mention of replacement for the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal, perhaps because appeals would be heard directly in the Court of Session. Much depends on negotiations between the Scottish Government and Her Majesty’s Government in London in the period between September 2014 and independence day on 24 March 2016. A complicating factor is the UK general election in May 2015.