The political and bureaucratic challenges of regulatory convergence: The case of the Indonesian Telematics Convergence Bill

Presenter: Titik Puji Rahayu  (PhD Candidate, MECO, University of Sydney).

Abstract:
This article aims to examine the Indonesian government’s effort to redesign the Indonesian communication policy by proposing the Telematics Convergence Bill. More specifically, this study concerns on the policy process for regulating industrial convergence of the Indonesian communication sectors. Through document analysis, the content of the bill is examined to answer the following questions; what aspects of convergence that are perceived as critical to be regulated with the bill? How those aspects of convergence are going to be regulated? What aspects of convergence that have been overlooked and therefore left unregulated by the bill? Subsequently, data from semi-structured interviews with figures from regulatory bodies are used to further explain how the understanding of Indonesian policymakers on the issue of technological and industrial convergence has shaped the formulation of the bill. Finally, this chapter discuss particular bureaucratic and political challenges that have inhibited the policy process of the bill.

The finding of the study reveals that the bill had been formulated by strongly following telecommunication regulatory tradition, as compared to media regulatory tradition. In fact, the bill partly adopts the layer models by only addressing the three layers of communication industries, namely the infrastructure, network and application layers. Intentionally, the bill had been designed to rule out the content layer. In this way, the bill focuses on the regulation of conduit, rather than content.

Subsequently, the study found that the bill has been formulated with the main objective to control multinational OTT providers and protect the economic interests of the state and national telecommunication operators. OTT business has been dominated by multinational companies, such as Google, BlackBerry, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Uber, without significant economic contributions to the state and national telecommunication industry.

Another aspect to be concerned is how the bill proposes the establishment of a new regulatory body overseeing the Indonesian communication industries, with a government official to be appointed as the chairman. Globally, the discourse on regulatory convergence suggests the establishment of a single regulatory body overseeing the whole communication sectors. In the case of Indonesia, however, such an effort tends to be politically rejected. This is because Indonesia has a history of authoritarianism where the government during the old order and new order era 1945-1998) had solely controlled the telecommunication and media industries. Therefore, since the Indonesian reformation, a number of regulatory bodies have been established, such as the BRTI, KPI, Press Council and LSF, for the purpose of power separation. Any effort to restore centralization of power in the hand of government tends to generate political rejection.

After all, the design of the bill is resulted from a policy process which had been dominated by policymakers from telecommunication regulatory bodies; those were figures from the Ministry of Kominfo, BRTI and KRT. In contrary, there were no figure from the Indonesian media regulatory bodies, such as the Press Council, KPI and LSF, had been involved in the legal drafting of the bill. This means that lack of coordination among regulatory bodies that control the Indonesian communication industries is persisted and become a barrier for regulatory convergence in Indonesia.

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