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Regulatory Implications of Telecommunications Convergence

image of Regulatory Implications of Telecommunications Convergence

This Briefing Report of the Sixth Colloquium assesses the challenges and opportunities confronting regulators that arise from the rapid convergence of telecommunications technologies and markets. Spurred by dramatic technical developments, such as high-speed digital telephony, cable television, wireless technologies, and the Internet, the lines between traditional common carrier telephone ("conduit") services and broadcast-based information and entertainment ("content") services are becoming increasingly blurred. These trends are compelling regulators to re-examine many of the fundamental policies and institutional structures whose goals are to guide telecommunications industry evolution for the benefit of society. The Regulatory Colloquium itself and the preparation of the Briefing Report were funded by the World Bank and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The principal author is Mr. David Townsend. The views expressed are those of the author alone.

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Introduction

This is a report about "convergence" in the telecommunications industry, and its implications for government authorities responsible for regulating the various segments of the industry. There are many different uses and interpretations of the term "convergence" in the telecommunications field these days: convergence of computers and communications, of regional and national market boundaries, of company ownership. The focus here touches on all of these variants, but is concerned primarily with convergence of telecommunications "conduit" and "content". As explained at the outset of Part I of the report, these terms imply, respectively, transmission-oriented common carrier telephone activities, and information-oriented activities such as broadcasting. As the technologies of wire-based voice and data communication and radio-based broadcasting and information services intersect and merge with each other, a new world of integrated "multimedia" companies and services is rapidly arriving.

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