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PolicyTracker Editorial: time to open up ITU-R meetings?

PolicyTracker2014
This recent editorial from the London-based spectrum newsletter PolicyTracker is included here with their kind permission.

Our recent article on the JTG (ITU-R Joint Task Group 4-5-6-7) meeting sparked a debate in the PolicyTracker office: is the ITU-R decision-making process too secretive?

The press cannot attend most of the important ITU-R meetings, except the opening and closing ceremonies of the World Radio Conference. So the actual work of building policy and negotiating compromise is done behind closed doors.

Opinion among my colleagues was divided. ITU meetings are treaty negotiations at the governmental level – so you wouldn’t expect total openness – and furthermore companies are discussing commercially sensitive matters. Besides, some attendees will usually tell you what happened.

Our editorial meeting ended and an email arrived. Someone had read the JTG article and claimed we had been taken in by “GSMA spin”.

To write the piece we had indeed found some people who would talk to us, but some of them had an axe to grind. We cannot see the documents themselves, so we could not balance one interpretation against another.

And it’s not just the press which is blindsided: so are ordinary citizens, consumers groups and NGOs who can't afford the ITU-R's membership fees.

WRC decisions affect hundred of millions globally and spectrum managers often complain that the public do not recognise the importance of the field. But how can stakeholders become engaged without access to the ITU-R meetings and documents?

The ITU will hold its regular plenipotentiary this Autumn. This gives the international spectrum community the opportunity to ask itself: is this the best we can do?


martinsims
Martin Sims, PolicyTracker







Observations

One can attend ITU-R meetings by either joining ITU for a basic rate of CHF 10,600 ($11,700) or by joining a national delegation. While Fortune 500 companies should have no problem using either route, Silicon Valley startups are at a real disadvantage. Regular participation in domestic ITU-R study groups increases the chances of being on the US delegation, but can be very expensive for small firms over the long run. Also there are unconfirmed stories that in the latter part of the Bush 43 Administration, people who had given to the “wrong” candidates were not elected by DOS for the delegation lists.

There is no simple answer for these problems, but we’re glad to give Mr. Sims’ editorial more exposure on this side of the “pond”.
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