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Universal service in telephone history : A reconstruction

  • Mueller, Milton
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    The universality of telephone service is generally believed to be an achievement of regulated monopoly and rate subsidies. This paper critically examines the historical claims of what it terms the ideology of universal service. It shows that a ubiquitous telephone infrastructure developed in the USA because of competition between Bell and the independents in the period 1894-1921. Moreover, it shows that it was the refusal of Bell and the independents to interconnect with each other, a phenomenon which is generally ignored or condemned in the historical and economic literature, which propelled both systems into a race to achieve universality, leading to rapid increases in penetration and geographic scope, particularly in rural areas. The phrase universal service, which first emerged in telephone policy debates in 1907, did not mean a telephone in every home or rate subsidies, but the interconnection of the systems into a unified, non-fragmented service.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Telecommunications Policy.

    Volume (Year): 17 (1993)
    Issue (Month): 5 (July)
    Pages: 352-369

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:telpol:v:17:y:1993:i:5:p:352-369
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