Centre for Internet & Society

Concise Description:

While the communication technologies that use the radio spectrum continue to develop at a brisk pace, our general approach to regulating the spectrum has not changed much since the 1930s when the spectrum was regulated to a very high degree in order to assure that interference between signals would not occur. For this reason, frequencies are assigned for specific uses and overseen quite closely by national regulators as well as an international system of governance. However, as technology rapidly changes, approaches to managing the spectrum should change as well.

Around the world, countries are migrating their broadcast systems –in particular, television- from analogue transmitters and receivers to digital ones. Digital broadcasting utilises the spectrum more efficiently, generally allowing for more channels in the space where one analogue channel could exist. This provides opportunity for other uses of the freed spectrum.

This digital migration creates the opportunity for improving how spectrum can be used and regulated. In particular, for expanding internet access. For this opportunity to realise, new means should be built into all spectrum allocation regimes. Open spectrum is one approach to spectrum management that would allow various users to utilise parts of the spectrum that are available. Sharing the spectrum in such a way would create a “spectrum commons” and would require a simple set of rules for communicating with one another and making decisions. But even if some frequencies are set aside as commons, more transparent and clear ways to regulate the spectrum being used by all stakeholders -including broadcasters, mobile companies and the military- need to be set. 

This workshop will be aimed at identifying current practices that are contributing to build the spectrum commons, as well as debating different perspectives on policy and regulatory issues involved in spectrum management and its impacts on development.

In this workshop we will explore alternative regulatory frameworks in different contexts and regions, considering how technological developments can shape the future of spectrum-based communication. Considering, in particular, the opportunities brought by the transition to digital broadcasting systems.

Which of the five broad IGF Themes or the Cross-Cutting Priorities does your workshop fall under?

Emerging Issues

Have you organized an IGF workshop before? Yes

If so, please provide the link to the report:


Provide the names and affiliations of the panellists you are planning to invite:


- Claire Sibthorpe, Maple Consulting Services, UK


  • Steve Song, Village Telco, South Africa
  • Muriuki Mureithi, Researcher, Summit Strategies ltd, Kenya
  • Carlos Afonso, Instituto NUPEF, Brazil
  • Willie Currie, Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, South Africa
  • Giacomo Mazzone, European Broadcasting Union, Switzerland
  • Sascha Meinrath, New America Foundation, USA
  • Paul Mitchell, Microsoft Corporation, USA
Remote moderator:
  • Henrik Almström, APC, South Africa

Provide the name of the organizer(s) of the workshop and their affiliation to various stakeholder groups:
Association for Progressive Communications (APC) (civil society)
KictaNet (multistakeholder network)
Balancing Act (private sector)
Centre for Internet and Society (civil society)

Organization:Association for Progressive Communications
Contact Person: Pablo Accuosto
Workshop Number 121
See the background paper here
See the details on IGF website here