The impact of Universal Service Obligations and International Cross-subsidies on the dispersion of telephone services in developing countries
This paper re-evaluates the telecommunication policies often applied to create regional dispersion of services in developing countries. We observe that failure to consider the complexities of the regional telecommunication systems in creating policies and investment strategies has increased the telecom gap between urban and rural regions worldwide. In particular, the teledensities of rural telecommunications in developing countries have remained very low in spite of support through universal service obligation fees and cross-subsidization from international services. As traditional methods for economic analysis and modeling have failed to identify mechanisms that improve telephone dispersion in these countries, we use a system dynamics modeling approach to deal with complexities of the situation in order to evaluate how Universal Service Obligations (USOs) and International Cross-Subsidy (ICS) policies affect telephone densities. We demonstrate that these policies may be counterproductive due to the structure of the telecom system itself. We also show that, when market-clearing pricing is combined with USOs once the urban telephone density reaches a minimum threshold, the dispersion of rural telecommunications can be considerably improved.
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