What comes before a fall?
Feb 06, 2014 by Martin Sims


TagsBlog, Digital dividend, Mobile, Spectrum Auctions, Vodafone

Pride, according to the proverb, but for politicians dabbling in spectrum management it’s interfering with independent regulation which seems to precede their demise.

French minister Arnaud Montebourg recently told an industry event that he would pull rank over the country’s independent institutions in order to get his way. He said he would tell the head of the country’s competition authority that he was nominated, “whereas I am elected, so inevitably, I am right”.

He also pledged to curtail the power of the independent regulator, ARCEP, so that the government could get its way on the “political” matter of spectrum policy.

Montebourg’s outspoken intervention reminded PolicyTracker of Australian politician Stephen Conroy’s confident assertions before its 4G auction. He famously announced that as he was in charge of spectrum auctions, if he wished, he could force bidders to wear red underpants on their heads.

Conroy, whose party was polling badly, decided that he, rather than the regulator, would set the reserve price for the 4G auction. Vodafone responded by declining to participate. Inevitably, the auction raised A$1 billion less than planned and 2 x 15 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band remains unsold. Four months later Conroy was looking for a new job when his party lost the election.

Back in France, Montebourg’s key target is probably the country’s planned 700 MHz auction

And how is the French government doing? Opinion poll results for the President François Hollande are the worst on record. Is this connected to regulator-bashing? We can’t help wondering.

Toby Youell and Martin Sims, PolicyTracker