Sunday, 15 March 2009

Google and the Evolution of Communications Networks

Historically, communications policy has tended to react to the evolution of communications networks. Noam et al (1994: 17) suggest that network evolution can be identified in distinct stages:
1. The cost-sharing network. Expansion is based on the logic of spreading fixed costs across many participants, and increasing the value of telephone interconnectivity.

2. The redistributory network. The network grows through politically mandated transfers among users.

3. The pluralistic network. The uniformity of the network breaks apart because the interests of its numerous participants cannot be reconciled, and a federation of subnetworks emerges.

4. The global network. Various domestic subnetworks stratify internationally and form networks that transcend territorial constraints.
Network development, then, tends to be unilinear, in that there is ‘a single, consistent path of development or progression’ from ‘the primitive to the more advanced’. Nonetheless, national boundaries tend to limit the evolution of communications networks by limiting ownership and other issues in the 'public interest'.

In the US, Google Voice offers 'a single telephone number for home, work, and mobile phones and a central voicemail inbox that can be accessed through the web'. This is provided through GrandCentral.

It seems that Google Voice will soon be available to non-GrandCentral customers. Is this the first move to a truly global network? Does this signal the end of national communications policy as we know it?

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