Some of the changes that are taking place in ICT that regulation must consider and address are:
The virtualization of networks: next generation networks or NGNs in mobile now consist in ‘open’ and ‘virtualized’ radio access networks; ‘open’ because software platforms are more important than equipment traditionally sold by network vendors, allowing for more choice of supplier. Traditional regulators don’t regulate ‘virtual’ or computerized systems. Interconnection is not necessarily a physical activity any longer, and software suppliers self-regulate their programmes to focus on speed of delivery of communications over multi-purpose processors.
Increase in cloud services: remote working and Big Data have increased the need for remote storage like the cloud. The ‘cloud’ has been managed to a large extent by practical considerations, the location of a data centre, redundancy, disaster management, and security. Cybercrime and data protection issues are front of mind more often than practical considerations of network-sharing (although these still exist and continue to be important for various reasons). However, the number of companies that own and provide cloud storage and could be said to control access to and the flow of information are more concerning from a competition point of view, than regulation of type approval.
Data protection and privacy: it’s a natural consequence of the increase in cloud activity that privacy issues would be front of mind. Wearables enable the collection of intimate data and its use by a variety of third parties, but does the person wearing it really know what the data is being used for? Algorithms are being developed to push content to users based on previous choices they made in selecting a Netflix movie, or a book on Amazon, or even buying a basket of groceries online from a supermarket. Who can collect, process and disclose information about companies and individuals (and even governments and their activities) is now at least as important as who supplied the fibre to the data centre and whether they allow others to connect to that fibre.
The rise of IoT, AI and OTT: regulation of ‘the internet’ has been mostly about access, speeds, security, peering exchanges, and price. The rise of social media has increased regulatory vigilance in relation to communications that incite violence or civil unrest or constitute hate speech, the need to protect children from harmful content, and hacking, fraud and dealing with the consequences. However, using the internet and interconnected platforms to deliver information generated by machines instead of humans or allowing humans to generate their own content and make it generally available to anyone in the world, has created intellectual and practical challenges for regulators. How do you identify the creator of and stop unacceptable social media posts, or AI bots used for hacking, and is it a good or bad thing that human interaction with systems has become more limited, and reliance on system-generated information so much more accepted?