Sorting out Deregulation: Protecting Free Speech and Internet Access in the United States, Germany, and Japan

Sorting out Deregulation: Protecting Free Speech and Internet Access in the United States, Germany, and Japan

Sorting out Deregulation: Protecting Free Speech and Internet Access in the United States, Germany, and Japan

Sorting out Deregulation: Protecting Free Speech and Internet Access in the United States, Germany, and Japan

Synopsis

Kim examines how the United States, Germany, and Japan encourage universal service and free speech on the Internet in deregulated marketplaces. All three nations seek universal service through competitive marketplaces, but they guarantee free expression differently: hands-off policies in the US, top-down approaches in Germany, and bottom-up approaches in Japan. The local political, social, and legal atmosphere determines each nation's policies. However, all approaches betray unanticipated consequences that weaken their policies. Public interest in the two areas cannot be realized without sacrificing the viability of telecommunications deregulation, and universal service and the maintenance of free speech require government action.

Excerpt

It is a truism that the movement toward telecommunications deregulation is a worldwide phenomenon, even though there is little or no general pattern. This study examines its definitive or probable effects on two significant public goods, universal service and free speech on the Internet, in the United States, Germany, and Japan. Because the experiences of making telecommunications policy in these three countries differ in many aspects, and each has some unique features, they likely provide useful lessons for the rest of the world, especially for countries that are in the initial stage of developing or restructuring their telecommunications infrastructures. the study examines whether deregulation can be reconciled with public interest values and explores the changing role of the state in developing a new communication environment.

Defining the Problem and Justifications

For almost a century, the term, “telecommunications,” was synonymous with telephone systems. Today, it covers all forms of messages – digital data, video, and audio – transmitted through a variety of electronic means as well as the old wires. Since the introduction of the telegraph as the first telecommunications medium, the development and utilization of telecommunications have been key factors in the progress of modern civilization. Nevertheless, as Garnham (1992) pointed out, “the study of the media has excluded the study of telecommunications, leaving the field to engineers and economists” (p. 339). This is no longer the case today, however, as telecommunications is increasingly forcing its way onto the mass communication studies agenda.

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