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Broadband in Parliaments: The Regulatory State & Technological Change

Ewan Sutherland
LINK Research Associate

Paper Presented to the Sixth Biennial Conference, ECPR Standing Group on Regulatory Governance, Tilburg, 6-8 July 2016


This paper compares and contrasts the processes used by the European, United Kingdom and Scottish parliaments in considering broadband policies, legislation, regulatory systems and outcomes, within a complex triple-tiered governance system. Broadband is of increasing importance due to the digitalisation government services and of political processes, potentially excluding those without access from benefits and influence. Operators initially deliver new services in profitable areas, determined by the economics offensiveness, then more widely. Demands to accelerate and extend availability and to increase adoption generated modifications to legislation and regulations to increase investment incentives, plus the provision of state aid and the training of non-users. Parliamentarians had to reconcile demands for services from citizens and constituents with the lobbying of perators. The issues are economically and technologically complex, with inquiries having to cut through terminology, economics, lobbying and threats of litigation. The European Parliament scrutinises and adopts framework legislation for an increasingly diverse set of member states. The UK parliament has limited roles in EU legislation; scrutiny of tests and of ministers negotiating in Council. Its scommittees have been engaged with state aid for rural provision, and oversight of the ministry and regulatory authority.The Scottish Parliament has notionally no role, broadband being a reserved matter, but has produced one report. It failed to examine the proposals for broadband governance after independence, for which there were two irreconcilable proposals and an impossibly tight timetable to split the market.

informal governance, multi-tiered governance, network governance, parliamentary oversight, regulatory state

Recommended citation
Sutherland, E. (2016). Broadband in parliaments: The regulatory state & technological change. Paper presented to Sixth Biennial Conference, ECPR Standing Group on Regulatory Governance, Tilburg, 6-8 July.