Dissertation Information for Denise Anderson
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Title: Universal service policy as a means to achieve social equity in the national information infrastructure: The state of Connecticut
Abstract: The concept of universal service has evolved from a business strategy to maintain control of the telephone network when first introduced in 1907 to a public policy goal as interpreted by the Communications Act of 1934 (1934 Act). Although scholars continue to debate the history of universal service, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (1996 Act) explicitly includes the availability of high quality, affordable telephone service to all as a public policy initiative and expands its goals to include advanced services for libraries, schools, and rural healthcare facilities. The rhetoric of the 1996 Act designates universal service policy as a means to establish social equity as the United States advances in the development of a National Information Infrastructure (NII). However, defining universal service requirements and determining the funding mechanisms in a competitive market have the potential to be a noble but difficult objective. The political sensitivity of the subject, the inability to reach consensus on the key issues, the convolution of telephone rates, and the pressure to keep pace with technology makes this a formidable task at both the federal and state levels. This dissertation explores and analyzes, through in-depth interviews, how the key players concerned with the development, implementation, and deployment of universal service policy interpret its meaning per the 1996 Act, contemplate its connection to the NII, and view its potential in facilitating social equity. The data revealed that universal service policy is extremely political, any type of drastic change to the status quo is very unpopular, and the current subsidy system cannot be maintained in a competitive environment. In addition, the implications of applying universal service policy at the state level are examined. The state of Connecticut proved to be a good case study because it demonstrated the power of the incumbent local exchange company (LEC), highlighted the influence negative public opinion has on politicians, exposed the major role that politics play in the development and implementation of public policy, and accentuated the problem of inequity in our education system in terms of the use of technology in the classroom.
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