Canada’s sectoral policy style enables faster deployment of broadband technologies and is more amenable to innovative practice. Institutions reflect historical government-business relations practices in the communications industries in Canada and Australia, and it is apparent that ‘the likely results of policy formulation are contingent on the nature and configuration of the interest networks and discourse coalitions that comprise [the] sectoral policy subsystem and affect its willingness and ability to propose and accommodate new policy ideas and actors (see Zahariadis & Allen 1995; Bulkley 2000; Howlett & Ramesh 1998)’ (Howlett & Ramesh 2003: 230).
Greater cooperation exists among market players in Canada and they are more willing to focus on competing in the market (rather than on the regulatory system).
A regional/local policy focus is more important than a national policy focus in deploying broadband technologies.
Particularism persists: pursuing a ‘single business model solution’ is unlikely to meet the particular needs of institutional, societal and individual users of broadband technologies. Therefore, a system which meets the particular needs of particular groups is more likely to produce greater penetration of broadband technologies.
Canada's integrated regulatory framework , combined with the legal right to greater provincial, municipal and community involvement in broadband infrastructure deployment has contributed significantly to Canada's higher rates of broadband access and speed of the services (as compared with Australia). While Australia achieved universal access to basic telephone services in the latter part of the twentieth century, rapid changes in technology and a lack of policy direction during the move to a market-based model of service provision left Telstra, the major Australian telecommunications provider, in a position of market dominance which continues to this day. In Australia, it is arguable that the old business model where the telecommunications carrier ‘own[s], control[s] and dominate[s] the network grid and as much of retail/commercial market as possible’ (Axia 2007) could only be undone by nationalising the wholesale communications network.
The approach informs the analysis of the ‘nature’ of government-business relations by identifying these variations throughout the evolution of communications technologies. This approach is useful in comparative perspective. Indeed, Lecours (2005: 5) suggests that adopting the new institutionalist approach in comparative politics is often employed in policy studies and ‘by an increasing number of comparative politics specialists’.
Technological momentum is a ‘more complex concept than determinism or social construction’ and it is also time dependent (Hughes, T. in Smith & Marx 1994: 102). It can also refer to the ‘increase in the rate of: 1. the evolution of technology, 2. its infusion into societal tasks and recreations, 3. society’s dependence on technology, and 4. the impact of technology on society’ (Dyer 1995: 255).
‘ it is logically impossible to understand any reasonably complex situation-including almost any policy process-without some theoretical lens ('theory', 'paradigm', or 'conceptual framework') distinguishing between the set of potentially important variables and those that can safely be ignored. (Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith 1993: xi, cited in Bridgman and Davis 2004: 23)’ (all cited in Colebatch, 2006, p. 6).
Rapid technological convergence is creating a dilemma both for coordinating the deployment of new communications networks and regulating existing communications networks. The dilemma stems from the legacies of traditional institutions of the state which created ‘distinct regulatory structures for telephony, broadcasting, cable television, and satellites’ (Weinberg cited in Gillett & Vogelsang 1999: 297) at each stage of technological adoption.
Policy style – long term patterns of policy development
Policy content – Paradigms, long term patterns in content
Traditions which have different impacts in the era of convergence
Serendipitous that Canada’s model appears to help adoption and take-up
Australia’s central control model hinders
Problems will accelerate as diverged interests converge
Newspapers are the first casualties, closely followed by traditional television networks
Comparison: some vignettes Howlett & Ramesh 2003: 232-233: ‘Established beliefs, values and attitudes behind understanding public problems and notions of the feasibility of the proposed solutions are significant determinants of policy content’