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On the last mile : the effects of telecommunications regulation and deregulation in the rural western United States and Canada


This dissertation addresses the provision of advanced telecommunication services to rural residents in the post- regulatory moment by examining two case studies, one in Alberta, Canada, and the other in Wyoming in the United States. Although governments built fiber optic infrastructures in both locales and the systems were described with great optimism for a better future, the systems have not fulfilled their intended aims. Through historical research of Legislative Assembly of Alberta transcripts; town council meeting minutes and newspaper reports in Wyoming; interviews with government officials, internet service providers, representatives from a variety of organizations, and rural residents; and ethnography, this study traces the supply of and demand for high-speed internet and broadband capacity in counties in rural Alberta and Wyoming. This study provides evidence that top -down technological fixes do not provide the best solutions for the citizens and consumers they are intended to serve. Additionally, it illustrates that the move away from the regulated provision of telecommunications service with universal service goals has adversely affected the availability and quality of services provided to rural dwellers. This study, thus, argues that comprehensive universal service aims, providing for advanced communications would benefit rural residents and that when governments consider the development of advanced telecommunications they need to provide the opportunity for sustained public debate and deliberation. Finally, the study argues for the careful consideration of the past when considering policy for the extension of broadband services and the planning and developing new information and communication systems

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