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Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Victorian Internet

Here's an interesting article from Ars Technica about the Victorian Internet, telegraph network of the 187os. It seems little has changed since then. Though we have broadband (no snickers from you time travelers from the future!) and the Victorians had the narrowest of narrowband, they had control freak/net neutrality issues similar to our own. In this article you'll read about the rigging of elections using the telegraph systems (including copying private telegraphs to the senders' political foes), Enron-like scandals in the railway business (the necessary partner of the telegraph system), the manipulation of stock in Western Union so that a speculator could buy control, and deals to force all newspapers to use the AP network.

Says the author:

In many ways this story is far field from our contemporary debates about network management, file sharing, and the perils of protocol discrimination. But the main questions seem to remain the sameā€”to what degree will we let Western Union then and ISPs now pick winners and losers on our communications backbone? And when do government regulations grow so onerous that they discourage network investment and innovation?

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