3 Excellencies

| October 3, 2008

Governments should be concerned about ensuring that there are consumer protections around privacy, around fraud, and around measures to give consumers confidence.

There are many international challenges posed for regulators by the internet.

In a range of applications we increasingly find that our traditional notions of nationally based regulatory structures are partially or wholly irrelevant. To take one example, the growing use of botnets, to mount various forms of criminal and other malicious attacks pose problems for governments. Who do you prosecute when the botnets involve computers in 20 different countries, used to mount attacks in a 21st country which spirit money away to a 22nd country under whose legal framework, nothing illegal is going on?

In June I attended the OECD Ministerial meeting on the Future of the Internet (www.oecd.org/FutureInternet). One speaker who stood out was EU Commissioner Vivian Reading who talked about the pivotal importance of co-regulation with industry based, on a clear recognition of consumer rights. At the same time, the EU has demonstrated a strong willingness to regulate where it believes in cannot achieve effective collaboration with industry – the regulation on global roaming charges being a controversial case in point.

Another speaker that stood out for me was Josh Silverman from Skype.

He stressed the way ICT had created  opportunities for periodic game changing technologies to emerge; how there was a strong technological momentum for information to become free; and how the creators of Skype were as surprised as everybody else when the thing took off and became ubiquitous – with 300m subcribers and around 5 per cent of all global calls as at June of this year.

But the thing that stood out for me was his question of the audience. In this extraordinary global  environment, what is it that a well intentioned regulator should do?

Clearly a regulator cannot anticipate problems thrown up by technology. Regulation is almost always – but not invariably — reactive in nature.

Silverman’s message was that the focus of regulators should be on what is in the best interests of consumers and that governments should be concerned about ensuring that there are consumer protections

  • around privacy;
  • around fraud;
  • and around measures to give consumers confidence

In his view, these were fundamental, and industry would, and should adapt to them.

Keith Besgrove is the First Assistant Secretary, Telecommunications, Network Regulation and Australia Post Division in the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy in Canberra. His responsibilities include spectrum policy and planning, domain names, spam, consumer issues and broadband. Keith has been involved in various international groups including the OECD, APEC and ITU, and is the current chair of the OECD Working Party on Information Security and Privacy (WPISP). In recent years, he has also been responsible for research into the impact of ICT in improving productivity in Australia.


Keith Begsrove chaired the Session “Australian regulation from a global perspective. Principles of best practice regulation” at the GAP Congress on Regulatory Affairs, held in Parliament House of Victoria on 26 September 2008 in Melbourne.

To read keynote presentations by other speakers, go to our ‘Regulation as a Business Opportunity discussion forum.