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World Telecommunications Day'97

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What is the International Telecommunications Union?

Just recently there was some concern over "top level domain names" on the internet. Top level domain names are the web address extensions such as .org or .com, those three letter abbreviations you type when you want your web browser to go to a web address: www.something.com, for example, or www.un.org.

The problem was that too many domain names were being registered and there was only one company with the exclusive right to allocate these generic domain names. The right to this was given to the company by the US-based National Science Foundation (NSF), which had a big role in developing the internet. But the NSF announced it would not renew the right. There was too much demand for domain names and domain names could not be the exclusive, well, the exlusive domain of just one company.

So what could be done? How could you keep the web what it is while solving the problem of too much demand? how could you give the right to domain name registration to several groups and encourage the international nature and potential of the internet?

A complicated question and who knows what the solution will ultimately be, but for now the place where this is being temporarily solved is the ITU. There, governments, private companies such as France Telecom and MCI, and organizations such as the Internet Society, gathered to discuss the problem and propose solutions (for the current solution check the press release).

That is the purpose of the ITU, to coordinate global telecom networks and services with governments and the private sector. The ITU sets standards so that people around the world can call each other on the phone; it adopts international regulations and treaties for the use of frequency spectrums by satellites or other systems on earth; and it helps with the development of telecommunications in developing countries.

The ITU is now headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, but was originally founded in Paris in 1865 under the name International Telegraph Union. Its present name was adopted in 1934 and it became a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1947.

Activity

Use the ITU web site (www.itu.ch) and encyclopedias to find out about the origins of the ITU's predecessor. Then answer these questions:
Why was an International Telegraph Union needed at the time?

What was its purpose?

Why are international agreements important for communication between people?
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