Cooperation. Not Supervision. 'An Inquiry into the Work of Digital Regulators': House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee Inquiry into Digital Regulation [Written Evidence DRG0004]

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Abstract

1) Strategically, the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee’s initiative is timely, pioneering and well-shaped. The purpose of this individual submission is to identify possible operational shortcomings of the proposed model and to highlight the ways for their mitigation. 2) When considering the optimal format for organising the work of sectoral regulators, which simultaneously share broader societal mission & ‘digital’ subject area, and yet are localised by narrow technical expertise and normative priorities, it is important to design a model synergising the advantages of both. On one hand, the sectoral regulators should indeed be steered by (or at least informed of) a holistic strategic vision and utilise operational functionalities of each other. On the other hand, the narrow expertise, focus, priorities, discrepancies and inconsistencies between the agencies should not be eliminated and should not be seen as systemic flaws. 3) The risk of an uncritical fusion of the sectoral niche-expertise is comparable to the discussions on the role of interdisciplinary research in academia. Interdisciplinarity brings many obvious advantages, improving, informing, assisting specialised silos, helping them to see broader perspective and operate with more differentiated toolkit. Yet, its mechanistic imposition often deprives the relevant silos from their unique narrow expertise. It promises to deliver a productive synergy, but when unadjusted, it can bring a pyrrhic success of the Towel of Babel. 4) The quarterly reports will help to keep parliamentary oversight of digital regulation on the right level: these periods are regular and sufficiently short to allow an effective steering. 5) The Digital Regulation Co-Operation Forum is an example of how the system could function. The new authority should be provided with the necessary competences to facilitate communication and assistance between sectoral regulators (but not going beyond this). 6) Sectoral regulators should be informed about the broader strategic interests and priorities in the area of digital governance. Such messages should not be treated as imperative instructions. However, they have to be known by the sectoral regulators. In any complex situation, when several alternative solutions of a specific problem can be offered without compromising the internal competence and expertise, the one, which is simultaneously more beneficial for protecting/achieving/strengthening a broader strategic interest or priority should prevail. 7) The perception that only independent, ‘politics-free’ inwardoriented sectoral agencies are capable to deliver ‘objective’ regulatory outcomes, should be softened and relativised. The sectoral independence is not an aim in itself. When the entire architecture of the digital society is being shaped, a broader and more coordinated vision should inform regulatory processes.
Original languageEnglish
TypeWritten Evidence
Media of outputHouse of Lords Communications and Digital Committee inquiry into Digital Regulation
Number of pages6
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Digital Markets Unit
  • digital regulation
  • Internet law
  • digital economy

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