Maggie 417

Margaret Thatcher and the Telecommunications sector

“Iron Lady” left a deep footprint in the history of the XX century. Many will argue she dismantled the British National Health System, or that she started an unfair war against Argentinians in the Falklands or that she did not carry out key investments in the transport system of the British Islands. However, you will find others saying she revitalised the British economy or that she fostered entrepreneurship spirit across the Island. Fairly, Lady Thatcher policies were a turning point in the lives of Britons and Europeans.

The telecommunications sector we know today is part of her legacy. Indeed, Britain was a shining example of liberalisation, modernization and deep changes within the sector. Margaret Thatcher was known for her highly conservative profile; although it did not mean she opposed to changes, on the contrary she did many. In the late 70s the European situation was similar to nowadays’. Crisis, euro-sclerosis, euro-scepticism, structural changes, the end of an era. All those words, so familiar for us today, were part of the political debate when British already drunk warm ales and Iron Lady acceded to power.

Margaret Thatcher was a key player in the economic debate that followed the World War II. Monetarism and the new classical macroeconomics influenced into Iron Lady economic policies. Deregulation, liberalization, privatization and restructuration of government spending and the welfare system were the core of Lady Thatcher political arguments. The telecommunication sector was in the middle of this economic revolution. Margaret Thatcher led the British economy towards a new economic paradigm as well as deep political changes.

Despite being one of the key economic levers in terms of technology and growth promotion alongside the 20th century, in the late 70s the Telecommunications were mainly dominated by a small group of national monopolies. Maggie observed that maintaining excessive privileges for more than 40 years was not fair either for customers, investors or taxpayers. Those investments paid by governments in the 1920&30’s in the Telecoms sector were no longer justifying the existence of monopolies by traditional economic theories such as: Natural monopoly or uncertainty in nascent industries among others.

Margaret Thatcher was fair within the sector in Britain – giving them a new act in 1984 and privatising the old monopoly. Indeed, the 1984 Telecommunications Act opened the sector to foreign investors and other players. The old monopolies abandoned their home pitches and started to play abroad… and most of them triumphed.

Margaret Thatcher government was the first to set up a precedent in the liberalization of the Telecommunications sector. Liberalising processes were extended to other European countries. Privatization, new investors, and the introduction of competition were recurring issues all across European governments of any political sign. Furthermore, incentives were already established in order for the Telecommunications sector to become a cutting-edge technological sector.

Margaret Thatcher policies left a footprint in many fields, either for better or worst. However, the telecoms, their clients and shareholders benefited from Thatcher liberal approach as well as the privatization and deregulation of the sector. Indeed, Telecommunications received a push when competition and privatization were introduced. The seed planted in the 80’s was a great move in order to achieve highly competitive Telecommunications firms across Europe.

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