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Who runs the radio commons? The role of strategic associations in governing transnational common pool resources

Iordachescu, Irina (2015) Who runs the radio commons? The role of strategic associations in governing transnational common pool resources. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis investigates how collective action is achieved in the governance of transnational common pool resources, taking the example of the electromagnetic radio spectrum as a global common. The thesis asks what determines variation in operational and collective choice property arrangements in common pool resources such as the radio spectrum. The radio spectrum represents the totality of radio frequencies used for wireless communications around the world. It is a transnational resource that exhibits properties of other common pool resources: a) high rivalry in consumption and b) difficulty in excluding non-contributing beneficiaries from its use. This study demonstrates that the presence of a public actor – even one with established authority at transnational level such as the Commission of the European Union – cannot fully explain variations in the configuration of property arrangements in the radio resource. Instead, this study finds that private actors in the electronic communications industry – i.e. service operators and system developers – define rules of access and rules of use in the transnational radio resource, by means of negotiating the configuration of technology systems used to extract value from the resource. In addition, this study finds that industry actors are able to define common operational rules to access and use a transnational frequency pool even in complex situations of heterogeneous economic interests and heterogeneous technology capabilities. They reduce uncertainty in these complex situations by increasing participation in decision-making and by developing mechanisms of information exchange and mutual monitoring in industry associations. When industry actors agree these common rules of management, and reinforce them with common rules of exclusion, they are more likely to negotiate operational arrangements based on principles of common exclusive property rather than individual exclusive property in the transnational radio resource. These findings are derived from the analysis of four case studies, which trace the development of operational rules in five radio frequency bands across time. By revealing the central role of industry associations in defining property arrangements in transnational commons such as the radio spectrum, this research seeks to contribute to the debate about the nature and scope of private transnational governance of common goods.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Irina Iordachescu
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Lodge, Martin and Chalmers, Damian

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