National Compromises and Transnational Alliances: The Battle of Universal Service Regulations in Europe
This paper discusses the universal public service approach in the light of internationalization and deregulation of telecom regimes.
ARENA Working Paper 11/1998 (html)
Eli Skogerbø & Tanja Storsul
Access to telecommunications infrastructure and services is an increasingly important communicative resource, and accordingly, the distribution of telecommunications services can be regarded a matter of distributive justice in the information society and as a necessary requirement in order to avoid creating a two-tier information society. Yet, what services should be universal, and what `universal service provision' should mean in terms of price, quality and geographical coverage are questions that have been recurring in the international debate. The development of new services and the transition from monopoly to competitive regulatory regimes break up historical compromises on telecommunications regulation, and have brought these issues to the forefront both of the national and international debates. This article investigates the development of these debates by means of empirical analyses of data from a comparative project on communications policy in three small West European states: Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands.
To explain the development of the universal service issue within national communications politics, we have emphasized three sets of institutional dynamics; first, the historical background, and in particular, the institutionalization of universal provision in each country; second, the quality and level of networks and services in each country as an indicator of the impact of new technologies on politics and society; and third, the Europeanization of national policy-making by the establishment of a regional telecommunications regime in Europe. These dynamics are specified as hypotheses in the empirical analysis. The data material consists of documentation of the legislative processes and interviews with participants in the public debate in each country, i.e. representatives for businesses and organized interests.