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Angelic (not verified) October 08, 2013

Wonderful and very informative blog. I would like to request permission of Jovan to make a summary and translate it to Dutch for publishing in the newspapers here in Suriname.
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Ginger Paque (not verified) October 08, 2013

This parallel is extremely interesting, Jovan. However, I see two significant differences in the cable/telegraph governance track and the evolution of Internet governance. First, earlier forms of communication, such as the telegraph, evolved over years and decades, not months and years. Messages moved slowly, and so did the mechanisms that carried them. The Internet phenomenon is wildly different in its speed of innovation. Second, for the most important part of its development, telegraph cable communication involved governments, diplomats and the wealthy (individuals or business), not the general populace (which, in addition, was smaller than today's global population). The Internet involves (or will soon involve) most of the active population of the world, at a volume and speed of communication and messages that the implementers of the telegraph could not possibly imagine. Will you address the introduction of these differences in part 2?
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Jovan Kurbalija October 08, 2013

Angelic, please go ahead. There is a very interesting historical story about Dutch attempts to join 'cable competition'. It will be part of my book which should be published in 2014 (in'shalah).
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Jovan Kurbalija October 08, 2013

Hi Ginger, You are right. Speed of life has accelerated. Although, one should not underestimate extremely fast growth of telegraph (see ITU statistics in the document). On the second remark, there are a few points. UK's approach of having private cable companies with strategic support of government was the most successful. Other government-run cable initiatives were not as successful as the British approach. It is an interesting parallel with our time. Telegraph was a great enabler. It should be viewed in the specific historical context. After a very high cost in the late 1800s, it became much more affordable means of communication in early 1900s. It was used by ordinary people (though not as much as the Internet). Telegraph also helped gender emancipation (telegraph - and later on telephone - operators was female job). There is a empowerment and enabler line which started with telegraph, continued with radio and TV, and reached the current level with the Internet.
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Ginger Paque October 08, 2013

Thanks, Jovan. Excellent points. Now I have a question for your overall proposal that geopolitical factors are actually important in the overall scheme of things, given that today the moving forces behind technological development in the world are businesses, not governments (if you accept that supposition--but if you look at financial power and effective power to change the world, I think you will agree). According to a presentation on 2013 Internet Trends (http://www.kpcb.com/insights/2013-internet-trends), when 1,500 CEOs of large organizations opined about the three external forces that would have the biggest impact on their organizations, in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010, geopolitical factors placed last, with less than 1% (with environmental issues and socioeconomic factors joining in the bottom 3). Market factors were consistently in first place, with people skills and technological factors showing most strongly in 2nd and 3rd places. How do you place business impact in the scenario of geo-political and diplomatic factors? Are diplomacy and Internet governance going to lose out (or have they already lost) to big business? Who will run the cable geo-strategy?
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Jovan Kurbalija October 08, 2013

One should not overestimate an importance of geo-politics. However, bigger risk is that we may underestimate relevance of both geography and politics. Business is in the driving seat of global Internet developments. They run 'the cables' and most of the Internet infrastructure. I do not think that governments should or can take this role. Governments should ensure that certain public interests and values are protected (e.g. data protection and privacy, access, security). The main challenge will be to strike the right balance between business-driven vibrancy and innovation, and government-driven protection of public interests on both national and global levels. Internet cables will be part of this dynamics.
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Dwayne Winseck (not verified) October 17, 2013

Very nice piece of historical wrok, Jovan, and well informed by historical analysis. I would like to suggest that you open the lens a little bit further though beyond the standard geopolitical story of great power super rivalry over telegraphs during times of crisis that you relay so well to consider the extent to which cooperative relations in terms of financing, controlling and operating the cables occurred across national lines during this period. When seen from this angle what really stands out, in my view, is the extent to which, while submarine cable telegraph companies were, while often based on London, actually owned by multinational consortia. Those multinational corporate consortia look a lot like the consortia that still run the cables today. Robert Pike and I make this case in our book, Communication and Empire <http://www.dukeupress.edu/Communication-and-Empire/> I also took some of this up in a 4 part series last year in the run up to much maligned ITU WCIT conference. Here's a link to the first in that seriees <https://dwmw.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/big-new-global-threat-to-the-internet-or-paper-tiger-the-itu-and-global-internet-regulation-part-i/> cheers Dwayne
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Jovan Kurbalija October 17, 2013

Thank you Dwayne, I will have a look at your book and blogs. I am fascinating by so many historical parallels between two periods (early globalisation, multinational companies, ownership of cables). On multinational companies... what was the ownership structure? Does it provide different perspectie than 'national ownership' of cables?

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