The global telecommunications sector is in the midst of a transformation caused by privatization, liberalization, and technological change. These trends have dramatically changed the way the sector functions. The number of service providers has increased substantially, as has the range of services they offer. Old business models and commercial arrangements are being abandoned or bypassed while new ones emerge. An era characterized by regional telephone monopolies that provided “plain old telephone service” is yielding to an era characterized by multiple providers of information and communications technology (ICT) services using Internet protocol (IP), wireless, and broadband technologies.
Some disputes are inevitable by-products of these changes, as new interests clash with traditional ones. Policy-makers and regulators are recognizing that effective dispute resolution is an increasingly important objective of telecommunications policy and regulation. Failure to resolve disputes quickly
and effectively can:
• Delay the introduction of new services and infrastructure;
• Block or reduce the flow of capital from investors;
• Limit competition, leading to higher pricing and lower service quality; and
• Retard liberalization – and with it, general economic, social and technical development.
The experience documented in this report indicates that existing regulatory and legal institutions are not always well equipped to resolve disputes efficiently and effectively. The lack of resources, expertise, and time often lead to delays or suboptimal results in resolving disputes. Policy-makers,
regulators and courts, therefore, are adopting a range of alternative approaches to dispute resolution.
This report documents a wide range of global experience with dispute resolution in telecommunications. It describes and analyses the major traditional and alternative approaches to dispute resolution, with a view to providing policy-makers and regulators with a better base of understanding to make decisions on resolving different types of disputes. While recognizing that alternative dispute resolution is not the sole provenance of telecommunications (indeed some of the more innovative techniques for consensus-oriented dispute resolution can be found in the Internet and related spaces), the scope of this report is necessarily limited to developments in the telecommunications sector. Useful lessons can surely be drawn from experiences in other sectors that will undoubtedly have application in the sphere of telecommunications.
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