Q: India continues its spectrum auction this week, after weak initial rounds. What's at stake as newly developed countries sell their airwaves--and, given endemic corruption, are the Indian people getting a good deal from the privatization?
A: Facing a new bout of economic sluggishness, and holding the largest population of desperately poor people in any nation, India should be using spectrum auctions to create four or five large national wireless carriers, each fueled by large foreign investment. India is the land of perpetual disappointment in spectrum policy as well as in many other areas. If only the country would look across the Indian Ocean to Africa it could see how transnational wireless development is as effective a remedy against poverty (and even disease) as humankind has ever discussed.
In communications, India should allow consolidation, encourage tower sharing, deregulate prices, welcome foreign capital, eliminate local content requirements, and -- in short -- embrace progress; that is, it should take these steps or alternatively make it clear that it is willing to see China become the overwhelmingly dominant economic power in Asia.
--Written by Reed Hundt, former chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission (1993 to 1997, appointed by President Bill Clinton). At the FCC, he oversaw the introduction of spectrum auctions and the implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 designed to substantially reduce the rates for international telecommunications service. Hundt is currently the CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital, a non-profit advocacy coalition of businesses, investors and attorneys. He is also the author of the new e-book, Zero Hour: Time to Build the Clean Power Platform.
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