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Communication, Freedom and Change, Vol. 7 - 2000, No. 4

The Bias of Transnational Communications: The WTO, Wired Cities and Limited Democracy

, pages: 17-36[open access]

This paper looks at the reconstruction of global communications policy during the 1990s around a set of three pillars: the WTO, new domestic regulators, and new systems of private authority. It analyses several WTO agreements adopted during the decade and argues that these agreements increased access to telecommunications services and the Internet, but tended to do so among high end users clustered in North America, Europe and Japan as well as a few business centres scattered across the "third world." The paper also analyses the rising influence of private-sector based policy alliances on the ITU and WTO as well as their power to set de facto policies for privacy, network access and Internet content regulation through self regulation and control over the design of communication technologies. Lastly, it argues that the problem with globalisation is that efforts to create global markets have been divorced from any parallel commitment to the globalisation of democracy.

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