US Cyberspace Policy in Historical Perspective

May 17, 2011

The US has just issued its strategy for cyberspace.

The question that occurred to me is how does this relate to the history of US international communications policy? In Telecommunications and Empire Jill Hills sees US communications policy as a push for a global system of liberalized rules. While the idea of ‘free flow’ that emerged in the 1940s had an explicitly political, freedom of the press aspect it was also rooted in the interests of US telecommunications companies in their struggle to gain access to the British imperial markets. The US push for a single global communications market ran up against the norms of sovereignty and was undercut by the resistance to opening the US market.  The result has been a system of communications regulation that combines international rules with national regulatory systems.  The internet has been an exception to this framework a sui generis mix of largely private sector actors.  On a quick reading of the strategy one gets the sense that the policy is converging towards other areas of international communications policy.  The rise of security and law and enforcement concerns means greater importance is attached to interstate cooperation.

Hills, J. (2007) Telecommunications and empire. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

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