The Integration of Infrastructures in Europe before the Great War and after the Second World War in comparison
Sub-project: Integration of telecommunications
This project deals with the integration of telephony as an example for the integration in the field of telecommunications.
Processes of integration in the telecommunication sector started in the middle of the 19th century. European governments set up the International Telegraph Union (ITU) in 1865. This organisation called regular conferences at which national delegates discussed technical, operational, administrative and juridical harmonisations of telecommunication networks and services in Europe.
The International Telegraph Union extended its activities to telephony in the 1870s. At that time the telephone’s technical development entered a stage at which long-distance phone calls became feasible. In most European countries the telegraph administrations incorporated telephony into their area of responsibility. In the beginning the telephone spread comparatively slowly because its value was considered very low by the majority of these administrations. The spreading of international lines was additionally decelerated because of the existing language barriers in Europe.
The first international regulations for the telephone were adopted at the ITU telegraph conference in 1885. Regulations were fixed at a minimum level as national administrations tried to avoid any restriction in the technical development. It was agreed that cross border telephone connections should be regulated within bilateral agreements between the administrations concerned. ITU should not dictate comprehensive technical, operational, administrative or juridical rules.
Prior to the Great War the international regulation of the telephone was left to the ptt-administrations which negotiated standards on a bilateral level. In the 20th century such negotiations were mostly multilateral and were carried out within international organisations. Regulations and standards were then fixed within a multitude of committees and conferences under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union or the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunication Administrations.
By taking up the telephone as an example for an infrastructure this sub-project examines the guiding questions of the overall project: In which ways and within which forms did integration take place? Which factors supported or hampered the integration during the two epochs? How were polity, politics and policies of integration interrelated?