Thailand’s new NBTC (National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission) bill is entering its third reading in the house, with the Cabinet choosing not to restart the process under the new incoming constitution’s rules as was recommended by the council of state.
The draft constitution that has yet to be enacted stipulates in Article 77 that the NBTC Act must undergo public hearings and legal evaluation. Some members of the drafting committee and the council of state have recommended that the drafting of the act be restarted in accordance with the draft constitution. If there is any delay and the new constitution is enacted before the bill is passed, they fear that all the work might have to begin again from scratch.
Another potential sticking issue is the Cabinet resolution calling for more checks and balances in the new NBTC Act, which the drafting committee feels needed more detail.
Council of State spokesperson Distat Hotrakit told reporters that the Cabinet had approved the amendments put forward by the Council of State, and this now opens the way for the bill to enter its third and final reading in the junta-appointed legislature.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasit said he expected the legislature to pass the bill and for the new law to be enacted within five to six months. This means that frequency allocation auctions can be held as soon as November this year.
Takorn said that MCOT (the privatized former state broadcaster holding half of 2.6 GHz spectrum) has agreed to work with the NBTC in parallel in preparation for the new frequency act. The new act will allow the NBTC to pay MCOT for its spectrum, something not allowed under the current law.
In context, the draft bill also puts auction revenue under the control of a new Digital Economy Commission which is chaired by the Prime Minister, rather than the Ministry of Finance. It also greatly reduces the autonomy of the regulator and allows for the DE Commission to allocate spectrum first, with the NBTC only taking care of commercial spectrum.