All Commentary
Monday, January 1, 1962

Telephonic Centralization

This article has been translated and condensed from the Norwegian weekly, Farmand, pub­lished and edited by Dr. Trygve B. Hoff.

It has admittedly taken a long time for the state to swallow up all the private companies in Nor­way, but we are nearing the end of the road. There are only three pri­vate exchanges and a handful of private city phones left. Of 738,000 telephones in the whole country, only 35,000, or 5 per cent, are now private.

We are beginning to note the consequences. In the Depart­ment’s plan for future develop­ment, one can read in detail about the state’s abuse of control of telephone communications; the telephone queue has remained the same for 10 years. The latest fig­ures show 44,000 on the waiting list, but the list is really longer: people have given up trying. In the “Plans for Development” the situation is described as follows: “A number of applicants for the Oslo Exchange have unfortunately been on the waiting list for a very long time. Of those on the list on December 31, 1960, 837 are appli­cants from 1952 or earlier.”

“Earlier”! That is as far back as 1940! In other words, in the nineteenth century it took only three years from the first patenting of the telephone in the United States to the opening of the first private telephone exchange in Norway. But under the Labour Party gov­ernment, 80 years later, people are on the waiting list for 10 to 20 years without getting a tele­phone at all; and tens of thousands of others cannot even be bothered applying, because they know it is no use.

In the meantime, the govern­ment is not lacking in plans. In the years 1958-61, 34,000 new phones were to be put into opera­tion in the Oslo area. We know now that the number will fall short by 19,000.

The “plan” for the whole country was to increase the quota for new phones from 20,000 a year to 30,­000. Instead, the government will now “postpone” its good inten­tions to the next Four Year Plan, in the period 1962-65. The theory is that if the plans are successful, the waiting list would then be reduced by 7,500 per year.

But all this does not amount to much. Theoretically, one should get rid of the waiting queue in 6 years. But the telephone density is barely 20 per 100 inhabitants in Norway, as against 35 in Swe­den; and Norway needs 500,000 new phones to catch up with Swe­den. So it is obvious that the planned tempo will not satisfy needs within our generation, even if it is kept up. The Telegraph Works consoles itself by saying that we are only 14 years behind Sweden. This optimistic viewpoint comes from a complete misinter­pretation of its own statistics.

It is true that Sweden‘s tele­phone density 14 years ago had reached the same level as Nor­way‘s today; but in the interven­ing years Sweden has provided slightly over one new telephone per 100 inhabitants, against.6 here. If we proceed at the present rate, it will take us another 25 years—in 1985-86; such a goal will obviously be made out-of-date by further development.

This scandalous situation in Norway is a classic example of the results of state control. Under genuinely private enterprise, a phone would be available at a day’s notice.

The fault, without doubt, lies in the so-called “planned economy.” The government has no objection to increased incomes; but it is determined to control what peo­ple spend their money on. When people ask for telephones, the state replies that they must spend their money on something else. It is all tied up in the socialists’ de­sire to direct consumption, along lines determined by the bureauc­racy at the top.