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Home > Books & Journals > Book Review Last Updated: 14:22 03/09/2007
Book Review #39: November 5, 2002

"Communications Policy in Transition: The Internet and Beyond"

edited by Benjamin M. Compaine and Shane Greenstein

Reviewed by Takahiro Miyao (GLOCOM)

Title: Communications Policy in Transition: The Internet and Beyond
Editor: Benjamin M. Compaine and Shane Greenstein
Publisher: The MIT Press
Date/Time: 2001
Pages: English text 425 pages (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0-262-03292-9


This book is a conference volume for the TPRC (Telecommunications Policy Research Conference), which was organized in Alexandria, Virginia, in the fall of 2000. Although the conference was held two years ago, most of the topics covered in this volume seem to be still valid as current issues on telecommunications policy.

For example, there are a series of conferences currently under way to compare the U.S. and Japan regarding mobile and wireless communications (see
), and that is exactly what Emily Moro Murase at Stanford University takes up in Chapter 7, "Wireline and Wireless Internet Access: Comparing the United States and Japan."

In this chapter, Murase compares Japan with the United States regarding mobile Internet service, and concludes that the difference between the two countries in this area can be explained not by cultural factors but by institutional factors such as policy, technology and market structure. In particular, she emphasizes Japanese policies to protect NTT's monopoly over local telephone service, where mobile service providers and cellular phone manufacturers can safely mobilize their resources due to their price advantage to consumers who are willing to pay for high quality mobile service.

On the other hand, the United States has adopted a competitive policy, which has driven down the cost of wireline Internet service and encouraged PC oriented networks utilizing telephone lines or other wireline services. Murase also examines some cultural factors, but maintains that policy, technology, and market structure play a defining role in what technologies and services have emerged.

In view of the long standing dispute between the United State and Japan, it is interesting to see Murase suggest in the concluding part that "it would be a mistake for the U.S. government to devote too much effort" to lower NTT interconnection rates, while a more important battle is currently under way in the area of mobile/wireless Internet communications.

Towards the end, Murase asks an important question: Will a new technology emerge to make current forms of Internet infrastructure obsolete? It now appears that wireless LAN technology and service, which Murase does not mention at all in this chapter, might replace mobile telephony in the near future. However, it looks like Murase's conclusion could still apply to this new form of wireless service, that is, "policy, technology, and market structure play a defining role" in the future of wireless LAN service in Japan. For this kind of argument, see: "Summary of Joint Reseach on Third and Fourth Generation Mobile-Communications Systems" by GLOCOM and Accenture (

The following is from the publisher's website:

Communications Policy in Transition: The Internet and Beyond
Edited by Benjamin M. Compaine and Shane Greenstein

Until the 1980s, it was presumed that technical change in most communications services could easily be monitored from centralized state and federal agencies. This presumption was long outdated prior to the commercialization of the Internet. With the Internet, the long-forecast convergence of voice, video, and text bits became a reality. Legislation, capped by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, created new quasi-standards such as "fair" and "reasonable" for the FCC and courts to apply, leading to nonstop litigation and occasional gridlock.

This book addresses some of the many telecommunications areas on which public policy makers, corporate strategists, and social activists must reach agreement. Topics include the regulation of access, Internet architecture in a commercial era, communications infrastructure development, the Digital Divide, and information policy issues such as intellectual property and the retransmission of TV programming via the Internet.

Benjamine M. Compaine is Senior Research Affiliate at the Internet and Telecoms Convergence Consortium at MIT. Shane Greenstein is Associate Professor in the Management and Strategy Department of the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

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