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Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
Young staff chart social plan for 2030

At the end of October, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) announced the formation of a policy project team named Policy Venture 2030. Comprising young staff, the team is charged with anticipating changes in social conditions brought on by advancements in technology and the decline in Japan’s population.

As of the official launch on October 26, a total of 34 ministry staff—ranging in age from 25 to 42—had been recruited, and some 100 individuals from the ministry’s various regional bureaus are expected to eventually join.

Strong sentiment exists that the lessons and methods of the past will no longer work as Japan grapples with technical innovations and internationalization amid an aging society and low birth rates. For this reason, the decision was made to have younger staff focus on social conditions as they are expected to be in 2030.

The deliberations will not be confined merely to ministry staff but will be open to “a thousand voices”—virtually anyone—and hearings will also be conducted by experts in various fields.
The team is expected to proceed with discussions in February and to issue a set of concrete proposals in June.

Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
Broadcast frequencies to be auctioned off

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has finally begun moving to adopt a competitive bidding system for telecommunications. At a November 10 consultation group meeting on long-range strategy for effective use of the available spectrum, the ministry presented its thoughts on how to plan for utilization and fees allocation while maintaining transparency.

The objective of the meeting was to advance the effective allocation of frequencies for public and private use, and to work out concrete guidelines for future changes in the structure of society brought on by population decline and aging.

Ultimately, however, its aim was to develop a formula for spectrum auctions. The ministry has been under pressure to introduce these, but has been unwilling to relinquish control over radio-wave policies.

“In the past and present, the need has arisen to adopt a formula for more effective utilization of telecommunications, including frequencies for public use,” a ministry spokesperson said.

The remarks recognized external pressure, and the ministry conceded that plans must be formulated to achieve progress on such matters. In the background was a political shift that manifested itself in the establishment of a project team to harness public and private-sector telecommunications. The team was organized in May 2017 within the Administrative Reform Headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and overseen by Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

In the manner typically assumed when receiving an urgent proposal, the government’s group to promote reforms on controls also decided to debate expanded opening of shared spectrum in the public sector.

Yoshihide Suga, former minister with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and current chief Cabinet secretary, made remarks in support of adoption, stating, “The government, while also monitoring information from overseas, will continue to consider policies to ensure effective utilization of telecommunications.”

The United States approved and imple­mented spectrum auctions between November 2014 and January 2015. Total figures on three competitive bids reached the equivalent of ¥5 trillion. Japan also expects to see expanded revenues once a similar system is adopted.

According to the ministry, total revenues for spectrum use in FY2015 increased to ¥74.7 billion. Some LDP Diet members, however, complained that, as the system now stands, four television providers—Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings, Fuji Television Network, Inc., TV Asahi Corporation, and TV Tokyo Corporation—“pay practically nothing” for their frequency utilization. The biggest complaint is that, considering allocated frequencies and income, the charges are far too low.

Keizaikai magazine