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Governing information infrastructures and services in telecommunications

Simpson, Seamus (2010) Governing information infrastructures and services in telecommunications. Aslib Proceedings, 62 (1). 46 - 56. ISSN 0001-253X

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Abstract

Purpose – Telecommunications comprises a vital component of information infrastructures and services, with a historically strong public interest dimension. For the best part of 30 years, the telecommunications sector in Europe has been the subject of a radical reorganisation in structural and operational terms along the lines of neo-liberalism. This paper aims to analyse the significance of the neo-liberal project in telecommunications in respect of the related dimensions of ideology and practice. Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents a public policy critique of the manifestation of neo-liberalism in the telecommunications sector in the European Union, employing desk-based research on relevant primary and secondary source documentation. Findings – The paper finds that proponents of neo-liberalism have been able to secure the broad acceptance of neo-liberalism as a “view of the world” for telecommunications. It shows that in practice, however, the neo-liberal model in telecommunications provides evidence of a less than efficacious adoption process in three respects: neo-liberalism requires an elaborately managed system the regulatory burden of which has been under-emphasised; the normative success of neo-liberalism has masked how difficult it has actually proven to be to create competition; the preoccupation with markets and competition has resulted in de-emphasis of public interest issues in telecommunications. Originality/value – This paper contributes up-to-date knowledge of the nature and effects of neo-liberalism in the European telecommunication sector. It provides a challenge and counterweight to the “received wisdom” that neo-liberalism has been an overwhelmingly successful approach to the re-ordering of European telecommunications.

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