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JILT 1997 (2) - Lesley P Hitchens

Charles H. Kennedy and M. Veronica Pastor's

An Introduction To International Telecommunications Law

Artech House; (1996), £52
xvii + 279pp. ISBN 0-89006-835-6;

Reviewed by
Lesley P. Hitchens
School of Law
University of Warwick
lesleyh@themis.law.warwick.ac.uk

Contents

1. Coverage of the Book
2. The Introduction
3. Policy Issues
4. Part Two of the Book
5. Conclusion

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This is a Book Review published on 30 June 1997.

Citation: Hitchens L, 'Charles H. Kennedy and M. Veronica Pastor's An Introduction To International Telecommunications Law', Book Review, 1997 (2) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/bookrev/97_2hitc/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1997_2/hitchens/>


1. Coverage of the Book

For anyone interested in communications regulation, and specifically telecommunications regulation, but lacking a technical background, it is not long before one realises that any understanding of the area will necessitate familiarity with a complex array of terminology and acronyms. Terms such as packet-switched services, open network provision, C band, WARC, CCITT and INTELSAT may prove a formidable barrier to such interest. The authors, two lawyers, of An Introduction to International Telecommunications Law state in their preface that the purpose of the book is "...to give nonspecialists a readable survey of a difficult subject" and they assume that the reader has no prior knowledge of telecommunications law or technology. The book is quite ambitious in its coverage, but essentially achieves its aim. The work is divided into two parts. The first part covers 'Telecommunications Among Nations' and deals with international regulatory bodies and co-operative organisations and their roles in facilitating international telecommunications activities. Hence, chapters include matters such as international standards, allocation between nations of radio spectrum and orbital positions, international tariff accounting procedures and intellectual property. The second part of the book, 'Telecommunications Within Nations', reviews regulatory developments in telecommunications in individual countries or regions.

2. The Introduction

The introduction to the book, 'The Global Reach of Telecommunications, 'is a helpful way into the book's material in that it outlines the developments in the area of telecommunications, technical and political, which have served to make international regulation of telecommunications an increasingly important area. The introduction also gives a good statement of the types of issues to which these developments have given rise, linking them into the chapters to follow. The first chapter of the book aims to provide the reader with an explanation of what are telecommunication services and how they work. Inter alia, the writers spend at least seven pages simply describing how voice telephony services (referred to as 'message telecommunications services') operate. The descriptions and explanations are simple and straightforward, yet given with sufficient detail to ensure that a service is fully described. This is in contrast to the explanatory attempts frequently given in other such works which try to explain too much in too little detail, often leaving the reader having only half-grasped the concept, and usually quickly aware that he or she does not have sufficient information or understanding to deal with the related regulatory or policy areas. This is a valuable and successful feature of this book and it is one which pervades the whole of the work as more complex areas, such as standards and spectrum allocation, are dealt with. In particular, chapter two which deals with 'International Telecommunications Standards' is a very useful chapter in explaining in detail, yet clearly, the nature of standards, their regulation and some of the relevant policy issues.

3. Policy Issues

As an introductory text, the book is necessarily of a descriptive nature. However, in describing the relevant legal framework, the book nevertheless manages to introduce the reader to many of the significant policy issues. Thus, in the chapter on standards, there is a discussion of the areas for abuse or conflict in the standards-setting process, such as the anti-competitive use which can be made of a standard. Equally, chapter three, entitled 'Scarce Resources: Radio Spectrum and Orbital Positions' provides a good overview of some of the tensions, between nations, within the International Telecommunications Union as it endeavours to allocate scarce orbital slots for the use of satellite services. Similarly, the chapter describing international tariff setting procedures manages to highlight the concerns about the imbalance in international accounting rates which favours, significantly, those countries with less technologically sophisticated telecommunications operations (frequently the developing countries), compared with those countries (in particular, the United States) which have been able, through technological developments, to lower the costs of providing telephony services.

4. Part Two of the Book

Part Two of the book, which surveys telecommunications regulation and policy, covers a wide spread of countries and regions, including the European Union. This part of the book is perhaps the less useful of the two parts. To review such a large number of countries in about one hundred pages means that coverage must be limited. There is, too, the risk that the material will be quickly out-of-date. A further risk, when such a wide coverage is attempted, is that of error. Thus, the treatment of the European Union has Norway as a member, whilst stating that Sweden rejected membership. However, for the reader who wants to gain a general insight to developments within national systems, the survey may prove useful, and certainly some countries/regions are given a slightly more detailed coverage. The value of Part Two is, however, enhanced by an introductory chapter, 'Domestic Telecommunications Regulation: A Global Survey', which provides a reasonably comprehensive review of the trends in telecommunications regulation which can be observed in varying degrees throughout the world. As in Part One, the authors manage to raise some of the policy issues affecting these developments, so that, for example, there is a useful little discussion of the paradox within the telecommunications industry whereby opening up the industry to competition has usually necessitated increased regulation.

5. Conclusion

An Introduction to International Telecommunications Law, with its ambitious agenda but relatively limited size, manages very successfully to introduce the reader both to the technology and to the legal framework of international telecommunications. The value of the book is enhanced by also alerting the reader to many of the relevant policy issues. Given that it is an introduction, it might have been helpful if the authors had provided a guide to further reading although the end notes will provide some assistance here. The authors are American lawyers, specialising in telecommunications. On occasion, material in the book is treated from an American perspective, but this does not detract from the utility of the book for the non-American reader. Indeed, at times the American detail which is provided manages to provide more of a context for the policy discussions as can be seen in the chapter on tariff setting where it discusses the international accounting rate problem, and also in chapter five where there is a short discussion of satellite transborder issues. One topic which receives rather scant treatment is world trade - barely two pages. This is an increasingly important area for international telecommunications and certainly one which a reader new to the area should be made aware. However, one can envisage that a second edition of this book would be likely to pay greater attention to this area, given that there have been some significant recent developments, such as the World Trading Organisation agreement in February 1997, which will have occurred after this book would have gone to press. This, however, is a minor criticism of what is, overall, a very useful book.

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