John Angel and Ian Walden (eds)
Telecommunications Law Handbook
Blackstone Press, 1997, £75.00.
984 pp index, ISBN 1-85431-595-1
This is a Book Review published on 31 October 1997.
Citation: Scott C, 'John Angel and Ian Walden's Telecommunications Law Handbook', Book Review, 1997 (3) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/bookrev/97_3scot/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1997_3/scott2/>
The vogue for publishing handbooks is one of the stranger law publishing phenomena of the 1990s. Such handbooks provide substantial extracts from legislation and other relevant legal and sometimes sub-legal instruments in volumes which barely fit in ordinary bags, which are out of date almost as soon as they are published, and which rarely carry much annotation. In these respects the Telecommunications Law Handbook is a rather typical contribution. It is perhaps less typical in that its price will put it out of reach of most law students. Though the principles of selection of material are far from clear, the authors have succeeded in assembling a valuable collection of material, some of which is not readily available.
Starting with UK legislation, we find few surprises in the selection here, though the Northern Irish and Scots readers may be disappointed to discover that provisions of the Telecommunications Act 1984 in relation to their jurisdictions (for example in relation to compulsory purchase and planning) are excluded from the volume.
In addition to primary legislation, and bare two statutory instruments, the UK section very usefully contains a copy of British Telecom's Public Telecommunications Operators licence, and either full text or extracts from a variety of other licences. This is extremely useful, particularly as the BT licence has been updated to the end of 1996, and so includes the new Fair Trading Condition (Condition 18A), which applied rules based on Articles 85 and 86 of the EC Treaty to BT and creates certain new procedures for the application and enforcement of these rules. The editors have sensibly annotated the licence showing the stages at which it has been amended. The text does not reflect the proposed amendments to the licences of other operators to incorporate the Fair Trading Condition, on which Oftel is consulting at the time of writing.
The other very useful item in the UK section is the text of a standard BT interconnect agreement. I would imagine that this text will be of interest not just to telecommunications lawyers but also to those interested in commercial contracts mor generally. An annotation points out that Oftel's plan to introduce what will effectively be a price cap on network charges may require modification of the text.
Part II of the book is headed 'European'. What this means to connote is the inclusion of an extensive selection of the European Community legislation and some other materials. In this section the Handbook is in competition with the Denton Hall EC Telecommunications Law looseleaf volume, which includes extensive annotation. The Handbook does not include annotation.
Other useful material in this section is various draft directives, for example the draft directive which will replace the ONP Voice Telephony Directive (the contents section (p.vi) incorrectly refers to the latter as 92/62/EC, whereas it is actually 95/62/EC). Also included are the Guidelines on the Application of EEC Competition Rules in the Telecommunications Sector, and the Commission decisions on the application of the EC competition rules to the BT-MCI joint venture and the Atlas joint venture, together with the draft notice on the application of the competition rules to access agreements in the telecommunications sector.
What this section lacks is any examples of legislation from the main European national jurisdictions. How was the decision reached to include UK (England and Wales) and EC legislative material, but not a translation, for example, of the main French and German legislative texts? The consequence of this decision is that Part II appears to be parochial rather than truly European.
Part III of the book is headed International Law. This in fact refers to a bafflingly small selection of GATT material and extracts from the US Telecommunications Acts of 1934 and 1996. Though the two page introduction to this section mentions that in February 1997 68 countries reached agreement on liberalisation of trade in telecommunications there are no materials in relation to this. The introduction also mentions the interest in the contrast between US and New Zealand approaches to telecommunications regulation, but does not provide extracts from any New Zealand materials. I wonder how useful such a highly selective collection of international materials will be to the reader, as even with the US materials one finds only the barest bones of the regime, and reference will need to be made to regulations made by the Federal Communications Commission to discover the applicable principles.
The reader interested in UK and EC legal instruments will find in this Handbook a very useful collection of materials. The reader wanting to make comparative judgements of any kind, or wanting to know about the implementation of EC law, even in the UK, barely has the material to make a start. The problem of materials becoming out of date is hardly the fault of the authors, though it is, of course, a limitation of the medium. In this respect I was heartened to see mention in the preface of a World Wide Web site. The correct address for this site (as compared with the one supplied in the book) is http://www.ccls.edu/itlaw/. However this site does not offer much that will be helpful in updating, certainly not the structured reference to the location of relevant materials one might have expected. As far as I could tell their list of useful web sites does not even include the Information Society Project Office (http://europa.eu.int/information_society/index_en.htm) which is where I go to update my EC legislation, legislative proposals, policy documents, etc. References to Oftel and the Federal Communications Commission are clearly likely to be useful. It is clear that the potential of electronic media for providing comprehensive and up-to-date information on telecommunications law and policy has yet to be met.