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NBTC 'must have power to allocate frequencies'

Jan 25. 2015
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By USANEE MONGKOLPORN
THE NATION

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THE state subcommittee reforming the broadcasting and telecom industries wants the regulator to retain its independence and authority to allocate frequencies.
However, this needs the support of the National Legislative Assembly, Pana Thongmee-akom, chairman of the subcommittee, said last week. 
The Pana panel is part of the mass communications committee of the junta-appointed National Reform Council.
The Cabinet recently approved swathes of draft digital economy bills, including the NBTC bill, which revises the powers of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). 
Under the bill, the planned national digital economy committee to be chaired by the prime minister will determine which frequencies are for security, public or commercial use. Only those for commercial use will be managed by the NBTC.
Existing laws allow the NBTC to allocate all frequencies. Most of the members of the digital economy committee will come from state agencies. Under the bill, politicians might be able to easily intervene in frequency allocation.
If the NBTC is viewed as inefficient, this problem could be solved bit by bit, he said. 
An NBTC source said the downgrading of the NBTC’s role stems from the watchdog’s conflict with the Army regarding its allocation of an additional band (50-54MHz) to ham radio operators, who have been using the 144-146MHz band. The regulations for this were published in the Royal Gazette last July.
The Army had been using the 50-54MHz band for emergencies.
The NBTC did not invite the Army to the public hearing for this change, the NBTC source added.
Before the coup, the NBTC posted its plan to reallocate this band on its website, saying the regulations would be published in the Royal Gazette soon. This prompted the Army to rush to send a letter to the NBTC opposing the move, but the dispute faded away.
After the coup, the Army sent another letter and the watchdog promised to look into the matter. It prepared to allocate the new band of 146-148MHz for amateur radio and reassign the 50-54MHz band for the military. These changes correspond to its review of the frequency plan every two years. 
However, before it could do anything to improve the frequency plan, the ICT Ministry proposed the NBTC bill, which will limit the NBTC’s ability to apportion the country’s airwaves.
 

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