This paper aims to look at a key trend shaking up universal service policy around the world – the emergence of mobile and wireless technologies as a central feature of telecommunications and convergent media.
The paper reviews the development of mobiles, and how they fit into the evolution of approaches to universal service. It then considers different facets of what mobiles represent for universal service, including the expansion of universal service, the relationship of access to universal service, spectrum management, and the user and innovation. The paper seeks to integrate these aspects into a consolidated account of what mobiles represent for universal service.
The paper finds that mobiles are providing timely access to basic telecommunications, and so we need to reconfigure the apparatus of universal service to acknowledge and build upon this. It finds also that there is a strong case for building mobility into definitions of universal service. Accordingly the paper advocates an evolution of the universal service concept to include mobility. In particular, there is a need for the role of mobile data, internet, and mobile media services to be evaluated – and thought about as part of the general policy discussions about building broadband platforms, and ensuring user access to and use of these. It suggests that there is now a rationale for explicitly giving an account of mobility in policies inspired by and relating to universal service. It recommends great adoption of new approaches to universal service, through flexible and open spectrum management, and also through policies that foster commons approaches. Finally, the paper suggests that stronger and more purposeful links be drawn between universal service and policies aimed at fostering innovation and at enabling and harnessing users (such as citizenship, cultural policies, and digital literacy).
The value of this paper lies in its dedicated focus on mobiles, and their implications are for rethinking universal service. To do so, the paper particularly draws upon user perspectives.
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