Abstract - The Information Society 16(2)

Rethinking Universal Service: Citizenship, Consumption Norms and the Telephone.

Paschal Preston and Roderick Flynn

One of the reasons why the proponents of expanded universal service have not made much headway is that they have not been able to provide a coherent justification for the major resource and policy commitments it requires. The lack of consensus on the very meaning of the term universal service has added to the confusion. This paper argues that it is critically important to articulate a clear justification for universal service before we discuss what it should include and how it should be funded, the two main preoccupations of the current debate. It answers the why question by drawing on the literature on consumption norms and citizenship rights and thereby provides a cogent justification for universal service. A clear articulation of the rationale for universal service should reduce some of the confusion in the current debate and bring greater clarity to the ongoing debate on this important public policy issue.

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