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Regulating ICT convergence: how useful is the telecommunications policy model?

Simpson, Seamus (1999) Regulating ICT convergence: how useful is the telecommunications policy model? Javnost - the public, 6 (3). pp. 49-66. ISSN 1318-3222

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Abstract

The Broadcasting, Information Technology and Telecommunications sectors have in recent years been the subject of notable transformation, one important feature of which is their coming closer together in a number of ways - it is now commonplace to speak of a new hybrid sector, Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs). This convergence is of considerable interest to policy-makers in industry and government at the national and international level, as well as the academic community and. In particular, one of the key questions raised concerns how to regulate for such convergence. Focusing on the European Union (EU) context, this article argues that in recent years the telecommunications element of ICTs has been subject to change in the form of both liberalisation and re-regulation to the international level, which has been justified by numerous arguments, and indeed in some quarters vaunted as an appropriate model to be applied to ICTs as a whole. This article suggests that whilst the telecommunications policy model can provide some important pointers for the regulation of the ICT sector, it cannot provide a full and adequate response to what many see as one of the most important challenges facing policy-makers across the European Union. Specifically, certain specific features of broadcasting - most notably the nature of its public service remit - set it apart from telecommunications. Furthermore, the regulatory arrangements and structures developed at the EU level for telecommunications have only very recently been put in place and there is evidence that they are facing certain implementation difficulties. Overall, it is argued that in the short to medium term, only limited regulatory change of the kind witnessed in telecommunications will occur in ICTs as a whole.

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