Crossing the Wires: the Interface between Law and Accounting and the Discourse Theory Potential of Telecommunications Regulation
Regulating telecommunications is complex: international experience indicates that there is no 'successful' regulatory framework due to the balancing of industry and regulatory interests (Laffont & Tirole, 2000, p. 13). The New Zealand 'light-handed' regulatory experiment failed and the 1999 General Election presented an opportunity for change in telecommunications. The Labour-led Government in implementing a policy of 'responsible re-regulation' enacted the Telecommunications Act 2001, signalling the passage of "landmark telecommunications legislation ..." (Swain, 2001d). Within the Telecommunications Act 2001, 'cost' assumed a central regulatory role. It is this move to cost that this thesis considers in identifying, developing, and critiquing the interface of law and accounting. The thesis examines the increasing call for accounting information in law and regulation by interrogating the use, presentation, and reception of accounting to examine the interface between law and cost in the regulation of telecommunications. The Telecommunications Act 2001 incorporates total service long run incremental costing as the 'costing technique' for interconnection access and annual net costing for the Telecommunications Service Obligation. Through interrogating 'cost' as an accounting technology, in contrast to the economic and legal conception of cost as a simple, objective concept, the thesis illustrates the role of cost at methodological, technical, and political levels, and the challenges that this poses for telecommunications regulation. The thesis articulates the relevance of discourse theory to the interface of law and accounting. Consequently, the thesis investigates the formation and discursive enunciation of standpoints of political identities characterised by antagonism and uncertainty. This includes identifying attempts by interested parties, including industry actors, stakeholders, and the Government and its agents, to articulate 'new' discourses centred on nodal points around 'cost'. The rhetorical analysis examines how actors articulate the metaphorical element of 'cost' in agitating for particular costing methods to be included in the legislation. The empirical analysis examines the process of rhetorical condensation as arguments for and against the incorporation of total service long run incremental costing and net costing came to signify the complete failure of the light-handed regulation. Then, by examining the politics following the enactment of legislation, this condensation is unpacked. The analysis of the contestation over interpreting and implementing the regulation illustrates displacement of the 'common' signifier resulting in confusion and disappointment in relation to the aims of the new regulatory regime.