Originally posted: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 23:49:30
Competitive Telecommunications provides a dire assessment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It critiques the free-market reasoning behind the Act (p.6); complains that it has led to "cream-skimming" (that is, abandoning low-profit markets for high-profit ones), the betrayal of universal service (p.16), and the halt of new infrastructure development (p.29). It suggests that the Act gave no game plan to protect local areas from obsolescence (p.27). It charges that telecommunications companies are in the middle of consolidating further and providing less service to their rural areas while overburdening high-population areas with new features.
The book was published in 1997. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 had just been enacted. That is to say, like another book I've reviewed, this one is more about predicting the Act's future impact than discussing its past impact.
Not surprisingly, the author sometimes avails himself of the slippery slope fallacy, suggesting that free competition will result in consequences analogous to environmental pollution. He beseeches us: "Just think ... just think ... just think ..." (p.51).
Despite these flaws, the book does do a good job of sketching out the stakeholders, issues, and technologies involved in telecommunications. And the flaws themselves point up the strong policy disagreements that were being aired during and immediately after the passage of the Act.
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