Telecommunications in Europe

Telecommunications in Europe

Telecommunications in Europe

Telecommunications in Europe

Synopsis

Noam's book is the first major attempt to address the complicated economic and public policy issues of telecommunications in Europe. He provides a thorough discussion of the evolution of central telephone networks, equipment supply, new value-added networks, and new telecommunications-related services in a detailed country-by-country analysis.

Excerpt

A number of far-reaching changes in telecommunications policy originated in the United States. Because many were passed under a conservative political regime, they were usually viewed in Europe as the product of American business interests, wrapped in a Chicago free market economic ideology. But more recently, Japan and several European countries have begun to adopt similar policies, or at least to discuss changes that previously seemed unthinkable. This indicates that the changes in telecommunications go deeper than the nature of the respective governments in power and that they reflect a more fundamental transition.

For a century, telephony throughout Europe had been a ubiquitous, centralized, hierarchical network operated by a monopolist. the operating entity was usually a state administration for post, telephone, and telegraph (PTT), though in some instances, the post was separated from telecommunications. the entire arrangement was therefore known as the ptt System. in the United States, AT&T fulfilled much the same function in telephony. Western Union, the telegraph monopolist, and the Post Office Department (later the U.S. Postal Service) added the T and the P. the physical and organizational structure of PTTs was hierarchical. Major policies were set by technical experts, largely outside public scrutiny. To be sure, the arrangement served the important goal of interconnecting society and operated as a mechanism of redistribution. It was not merely a technical system, but a social, political, and economic institution based on the sharing of resources and the transfer of benefits toward favored groups, often the economically weak and almost always the middle class and farmers.

The origin of the centralized network system for communications preceded electronics by centuries and was embedded in the emergence of postal monopolies. in 1505, the Hapsburg emperor Maximilian granted exclusive mail- carrying rights to what one would call today a multinational company, the Taxis family of Italy. Although this concession proved to be an unexpectedly rich source of revenue to the Hapsburgs, who shared in the profits, it also required vigilant protection from the incursion of mail systems, of which there was a multitude (Dallmeyer, 1977). Neighboring Prussia went one step further . . .

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