Article Title

Is Digital Technology Reshaping Employment Systems in U.S. Telecommunications Network Services?


The four major telecommunications local networks and network services—fixed wire line, wireless, cable television, and the Internet—are undergoing transformations propelled by network digitalization, service competition, and corporate consolidations. Using data from surveys conducted in 1998 and 2003, together with field interviews, site visits at major telecommunications firms, and discussions with industry experts, regulators, and analysts, the author examines how these forces reshaped technician employment systems across these formerly specialized telecommunications networks and services. The principal finding is that despite rising inter-network competition and common digital technologies, most of these networks’ fundamental employment systems continued with little change. Consistent with predictions from an evolution­ary perspective on institutional change, the three facilities-based networks—wireless, cable television distribution, and wire line—maintained distinctive employment systems “imprinted” by their respective institutional histories, while the Internet Service Provid­ers exhibited fragmentation reflecting their meteoric rise and the industry’s current business difficulties and uncertain future.

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