Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Reading:: Telewars in the States

Originally posted: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 09:29:15

Telewars in the States: Telecommunications Issues in a New Era of Competition

by Thomas W. Bonnett

Most readers of this blog (assuming there are any readers) probably haven't been scouring the used bookstores for this book. Most of the books I review here have to do with cultural-historical activity theory and related topics and tend to be theoretical or empirical. Telewars is, to perhaps oversimplify a bit, a Cliff's Notes version of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It was published by the Council of Governor's Policy Advisors and is meant for "CGPA members and others who advise state Governors." In fact, it was published in 1996, which means that Tom Bonnett must have thrown this slim, wonkish volume together very quickly.

One might think that with those qualifications, reading Telewars would be like reading Al Gore's diary -- plodding, uninspired, heavy on the minutiae, and with a very short shelf life. Well, that's how I imagine that experience would be.

But it turns out that Telewars is readable as well as informative. Its shelf life has indeed passed, and I would be surprised if governors' advisors were using it almost ten years later, but it does provide some real insight into how our messy telecommunications system works and how legislation affects it. Explanations are readable and successfully thread their way between the Scylla of wonkishness and the Charybdis of techno-geekiness. (How's that for a tortured metaphor?) A timeline, a glossary, and a two-page summary of the book's chapters all help to make things more readable. And the minutiae are banished to the footnotes.

I ended up reading the book during three bus trips. It's that easy to read and that fast of a read. And it'll stay on my shelf for a while, since I need to figure out many of these issues for my current book project. If you really are interested in the differences between inter-LATA and intra-LATA, or wondering what a CLEC is, or if you're surprised that your cable company is suddenly offering phone service, check out this book.

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