Telecommunications markets are dynamic; new technologies are constantly emerging, and new services rapidly become popular and then indispensable. So, universal access and service (UAS) aspirations are likely to rise over time. This is illustrated in the figure below.
Figure: Possible rising aspirations for ICTs
Source: ITU-infoDev ICT Regulation Toolkit – UAS Module
With liberalization and effective regulation, normal commercial forces are more likely to be capable of fulfilling some, if not all, of the new aspirations. So it is not obvious whether more or less regulatory intervention will be needed as aspirations rise.
Universal Service Obligations (USOs) have been a form of regulatory intervention for achieving universal service (US). The future of USOs is a topic for debate among stakeholders in developed countries, as represented by the OECD and the EU [1
]. Some believe that USOs will soon be both impracticable and unnecessary, while others see them as more important than ever in an era when universal broadband access could contribute significantly to mitigating climate change and its effects. The outcome of this debate will differ from country to country, depending on political factors as well as on the need for, and supply of, communications services.
For developing countries, a parallel debate will take place, with an equally uncertain outcome. Industry stakeholders like the GSM Association (GSMA) argue forcefully for regulators to stand aside and allow the markets to stimulate and fulfil demand for new services. At the same time, ICTs are a vital tool for development in sectors such as health and education that are usually understood to be commercially unviable and that need central government support. This toolkit aims to help policymakers and regulators in developing countries make informed decisions about the scope of UAS and regulatory intervention in their own countries.
- For contributions to the debate in the EU, see List of comments on the Communication "On the Review of the Scope of Universal Service in accordance with Article 15 of Directive 2002/22/EC”, COM (2005) 203, submitted in response to the public consultation (EU).