Aust & NZ
This page highlights some issues regarding the global
It covers -
Contrary to the fears or hopes of some, the internet is
not owned or managed by a single commercial corporation,
international agency or non-profit body. Instead, its
operation reflects the involvement of a wide range of
standards bodies, regulatory agencies and service providers.
That patchwork quilt of competing agendas, recurrent negotiations
and disputed jurisdictions has many precedents. Overall
it has worked quite effectively and will accommodate the
growing involvement of advocacy bodies of different persuasions.
key issues and forces
The 'network of networks' embraces a wide range of
devices, software and telecommunication systems (including
those that are wireless).
As a result, from a technical perspective there are three
key issues -
standards for connectivity - engineering specifications
so that the network remains 'open', accommodating technological
developments and not being balkanised by the providers
of particular products or services
ie the identification of sites and devices, whether
fixed or mobile. This is currently the most contentious
aspect of network management and likely to continue
to be so as broadband becomes more available.
- questions about who is allowed to access networks
and the prices charged.
and business consumers pay significantly more to be online
than overseas counterparts. And dominant carriers such
as Telstra, understandably, are hastening slowly to open
up their networks. Internationally, traditional telecommunications
pricing means that most countries pay the US for the privilege
of running an information deficit: cable and satellite
traffic from the US is greater than traffic to North America.
issues reflect technological and commercial developments;
convergence means that hardware/software vendors have
as much influence as telecommunications companies.
They also reflect changing perceptions of the role of
government, with a regulatory revolution since 1970s as
national telecommunications companies lost monopoly status,
were privatised and made cross-border alliances or acquisitions.
They are explored in more detail in the following pages
of this guide. The separate Governance
guide considers broader questions of regulating cyberspace.
The final pages of this guide highlight non-technical
issues, such as price and usability. Irrespective of available
technology and agreement on standards, developments such
as WAP and broadband are revolutions waiting to occur
... because of fundamental questions about affordability
Among collections of papers covering internet standards
and network management issues two volumes from the Harvard
Information Infrastructure Project series stand out.
Standards Policy For The Information Infrastructure
(Cambridge: MIT Press 1995) is a comprehensive set
of papers edited by Brian Kahin & Janet Abbate. Although
individual comments have started to show their age - five
years is a long time on the internet - the book is essential
reading. Abbate is the author of the best history of the
early internet, discussed in more detail in the profile
of the net's evolution.
It is complemented by Coordinating the Internet
(Cambridge: MIT Press 1997), a slimmer and less technical
collection edited by Brian Kahin & James Keller. It
explores policy questions and standards mechanisms regarding
domain naming, trademarks, traffic management, pricing
and other matters. An Australian perspective on standards
development is provided in Winton Higgins' Engine
of Change: Standards Australia Since 1922 (Blackheath:
Brandl & Schlesinger 2005).
Christine Borgman's From Gutenberg to the Global Information
Infrastructure: Access To Information in the Networked
World (Cambridge: MIT Press 2000) offers a succinct
introduction that ties together issues that recur throughout
the guides on this site. It is strongly recommended.
The Semantic Web, a 2001 article
by Tim Berners-Lee, offers a view of the web's future.
There is a more philosophical treatment in Interconnecting
The Network of Networks (Cambridge: MIT Press 2001)
by Ithiel De Sola Pool's disciple Eli Noam.
The December 1999 paper
by Vinton Cerf & Robert Kahn on What Is The Internet
(And What Makes It Work) is another excellent introduction,
one more specifically on standards. Marcus Maher's 1998
An Analysis of Internet Standardization offers
a legal perspective on connectivity standards. Scaffolding
the New Web: Standards & Standards Policy for the
Digital Economy (Santa Monica: RAND 2000) by Martin
Libicki & David Frelinger is provocative. The 1998
OECD discussion paper (PDF)
on Internet Infrastructure Indicators remains of
Frances Cairncross' The Death of Distance (London:
Orion 1997), Jeffery Wheatley's World Telecommunications
Economics (Stevenage: IEE Press 1999) and
the exemplary Information Rules: A Strategic Guide
to the Network Economy (Boston: Harvard Business School
Press 1999) by Hal Varian
& Carl Shapiro are considerably more insightful than
George Gilder's chiliastic
Telecosm: How Infinite Bandwidth Will Revolutionise
Our World (New York: Free Press 2000). Varian &
Shapiro are particularly valuable for discussion of 'network
effects' in the adoption of standards.
Ithiel de Sola Pool's provocative Technologies Without
Boundaries: On Telecommunications in a Global Age
(Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1990) teased out implications.
Global Business Regulation (Cambridge: Cambridge
Uni Press 2000) by John Braithwaite & Peter Drahos
offers a lucid analysis of regulatory mechanisms. There
is a somewhat drier account in The Regulation of International
Trade (London: Routledge 1999) by Michael Trebilcock
& Robert Howse.
In contrast, Law & Disorder in Cyberspace: Abolish
the FCC and Let Common Law Rule the Telecosm (New
York: Oxford Uni Press 1997), a tract from free-market
evangelist Peter Huber,
is provocative but unconvincing.
There is less excitement but for us more bite in The
Communications Toolkit: How to Build and Regulate Any
Communications Business (Cambridge: MIT Press 2002)
by Patricia Longstaff & Anthony Oettinger and many
of the documents identified in the Governance guide,
such as Henry Perritt's paper
on The Role & Efficacy of International Bodies
& Agreements in the Global Electronic Marketplace
and the Global Internet Project's 1999 paper
on Jurisdiction in Cyberspace.
Despite claims that the global information infrastructure
is revolutionary and unprecedented, the history of telecommunications
(and of other networks such as railways and power systems)
suggests that we have been grappling successfully with
standards and with management questions for at least 100
Peter Hughill's Global Communications Since 1844:
Geopolitics & Technology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
Uni Press 1999), The Shock of the Old: Technology
and Global History Since 1900 (Oxford: Oxford Uni
Press 2007) by David Edgerton and Brian Winston's excellent
Media Technology & Society: A History from the
Telegraph to the Internet (London: Routledge 1999)
offer a useful perspective. Pointers to other studies
and conceptual models are found in the profile
on communications revolutions and the separate profile
on the evolution of the net.
Constructing World Culture: International NonGovernmental
Organizations Since 1875 (Stanford: Stanford Uni Press
1999), edited by John Boli, offers insights into the evolution
of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU),
the International Standards Organization and industry-specific
For a perspective on standards see Ken Alder's historical
study The Measure of All Things (New York: Free
The Telecommunications Standards Portal (TSP)
is an Australian site about international telecommunication
standards, offering information about international telecommunications
standard-setting activity. It is an initiative of the
Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA),
Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF), federal
Department of Communications, Information Technology &
the Arts (DCITA) and Standards Australia International