A comprehensive framework for future broadband policy: Assessing the EU initiative
For more than two decades, broadband has been recognized in the EU as having great benefits for economic and social development. This recognition is evident in the first EU policy document on the telecommunications market – the 1987 Green Paper – which assumed that harmonization and liberalization through competition mechanisms could be used as tools to bring all those benefits to European citizens. Although the policy emphasized competition mechanisms in the years that followed, many additional instruments were developed and implemented in order to make broadband available to all European citizens. Some of the instruments can be seen in the form of directives, and some in the many policy strategies. All of them make a considerable contribution to the growth of broadband deployment in the EU. However, the importance of broadband infrastructures is furthermore elevated in the context of an emerging information society representing a fundamental transformation of social and economic structures resulting from innovation in information and communication technologies. With globalization, the policy impetus for broadband has shifted towards a means to increase the competitiveness of a nation or region. In addition, concerns of sustainability have emerged as a central issue for the long-run development of modern societies, and questions have been raised about the role of broadband in this context. This changing emphasis, due to globalization, competitiveness, and sustainability, impacts the design of policy instruments. A question can be raised as to which instruments can serve a new concept for future broadband policy.
This thesis aims to propose a conceptual framework for broadband policy that takes into account both traditional and new aspects of telecommunications sector in an information society by observing the empirical world, and analyzing literature and empirical studies. Particularly, this thesis presents an evolutionary concept for broadband policy in the EU by providing a model for integrating the related broadband policy instruments. A timeline of all the instruments and initiatives that are being implemented is explored. This evolution is analyzed to see what kind of future model is applicable to an information society when broadband policy is based on a perspective of globalization, regional competitiveness, and sustainability. The analysis addresses how well the existing instruments are applicable to a new concept of broadband policy and what the needs are for a new policy framework.