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NIG - Broadbanding The Nation

Presentation at the National Institute of Governance, University of Canberra, in 6B34 on 13 May 2009.

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NIG - Broadbanding The Nation

  1. 1. Broadbanding the Nation A comparison of government-business relations in the Canadian & Australian communications sectors Michael de Percy National Institute of Governance
  2. 2. <ul><li>Samuel McGowan, a Canadian, brought the telegraph to Australia in 1853 (serendipity) </li></ul><ul><li>Since the telegraph, Australia and Canada have been (mostly) on par in adopting communications technologies - until the broadband era… </li></ul><ul><li>The two countries are most-similar in many ways… </li></ul><ul><li>I have been comparing broadband outcomes in Canada and Australia since 2005 </li></ul><ul><li>This presentation provides some of my research findings </li></ul>Overview why canada?
  3. 3. <ul><li>The research focuses on two broad questions: </li></ul><ul><li>How does the government-business relationship in the Canadian and Australian communications industries help or hinder the deployment of broadband technologies? </li></ul><ul><li>What were the strategies pursued by governments in deploying broadband technologies and why were these strategies pursued? </li></ul>Research Questions
  4. 4. <ul><li>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). </li></ul>Research Findings
  5. 5. <ul><li>Canadian governments (at all levels) facilitate cooperation between businesses and civil society organisations, particularly on a regional/provincial level, in deploying broadband technologies. </li></ul>Research Findings
  6. 6. <ul><li>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). </li></ul><ul><li>A regional/local policy focus is more important than a national policy focus in deploying broadband technologies. </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul>Research Findings
  7. 7. <ul><li>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. </li></ul>Research Findings
  8. 8. <ul><li>Please refer to the handout or see: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>Comparison of Statistics
  9. 9. <ul><li>‘History matters… Today's and tomorrow's choices are shaped by the past. And the past can only be made intelligible as a story of institutional evolution’ (North 1990: vii). </li></ul><ul><li>Institutions set the rules: ‘routines, procedures, conventions, roles, strategies, organisational forms and technologies around which political activity is constructed’ (March & Olsen 1989: 22) </li></ul><ul><li>Hall (1986, cited in Marsh & Stoker 1995: 54) suggests that the historical-institutional approach ‘is capable of explaining historical continuities and cross-national variations in policy’ </li></ul>History Matters…
  10. 10. <ul><li>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’. </li></ul>Comparative GBR
  11. 11. <ul><li>Technological Momentum: </li></ul><ul><li>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). </li></ul><ul><li>‘ 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). </li></ul>Theoretical Approach - Technology
  12. 12. <ul><li>Government - three main roles: enable , coordinate , and regulate </li></ul><ul><li>Punctuated stability </li></ul><ul><li>Have not reached ‘stability’ in Australia… yet </li></ul><ul><li>Since Canadian government has ‘let go’ of policy leadership, Canada is now slipping on the OECD rankings </li></ul><ul><li>Australia: Build it and they will come </li></ul><ul><li>Canada: Build it or we will build it ourselves </li></ul><ul><li>Central versus distributed models </li></ul>Patterns of Adoption/Take-up
  13. 13. <ul><li>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. </li></ul>Tech Convergence & the State
  14. 14. <ul><li>Policy regimes (Howlett & Ramesh 2003): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Policy style – long term patterns of policy development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Policy content – Paradigms, long term patterns in content </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Traditions which have different impacts in the era of convergence </li></ul><ul><li>Serendipitous that Canada’s model appears to help adoption and take-up </li></ul><ul><li>Australia’s central control model hinders </li></ul><ul><li>Problems will accelerate as diverged interests converge </li></ul><ul><li>Newspapers are the first casualties, closely followed by traditional television networks </li></ul>Explanations
  15. 15. 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’
  16. 16. <ul><li>Next research project: </li></ul><ul><li>Least-similar comparison of broadband in Australia and Jordan: Technology leap-frogging? </li></ul>Conclusion