The Essential Guide to Telecommunications, Second Edition, by Annabel Dodd, enters my workspace serendipitously. I'm currently contracted to US West (or "US QWest" as the office wag has taken to calling it), so I'm in some position to benefit from the perusal of this volume and to evaluate its content. Executive summary: It's a professional and accurate volume suitable to be presented to novice employees their first day on the job at any company whose core business involves stuffing bits up the line.
There's metal in this book. At a high level, Dodd provides overviews of the myriad of empowering technologies that are heaped together into the telecommunications grid of this continent and our planet. The discussion ranges over switched services, dedicated services, signaling, T-1 to T-3, ISDN, DSL, Frame Relay, ATM, SONET, lines, modems, set-top boxes, the Internet, virtual private networks, PCS, wireless and mobile, satellites, convergence (of telephone and PC, not harmonic), and a good deal more.
There's also wetware interest here. Politics are inseparable from technical evaluation of the network. Legislatures and regulatory bodies dictate to the carriers in the name of preserving the public interest within institutions that inherently possess tremendous powers over access. The Essential Guide contains sections on "Local and Long Distance Providers,""The Bell System Prior to and After 1984," "Evolution from CAPs to CLECs," and a whole chapter on "Local Competition and The Telecommunications Act of 1996." Dodd allows herself a few judicious observations into social implications, such as the effects that merger mania and "cream skimming" are likely to have on universal service. Al Gore even makes a couple of appearances in quotation.
The Essential Guide is pretty current. The map of the surviving RBOCs correctly shows US West's 14-state region, accompanied by the (now erroneous) legend "Purchase by Global Crossing, Ltd. pending)." Which goes to show you that the industry holds surprises even for the experts.
The glossary is adequate in relation to the book, though the bibliography is a little too sparse for a second edition. There's no paucity of telecommunications literature; having delved (for instance) into SONET in sufficient detail to note sideband signaling, the author might have deigned to cite a few tech pieces on this and other protocols, rather than merely list eight other telecom overview books.
Dodd seems to have progressed from industry to academia, rather than the other way around. Her professional bio, (former marketing manager at Bell Atlantic, current faculty member at Northeastern University) suggests that her insights may have been arrived at empirically rather than in the ivory tower. Her book accurately imparts the freighted technical context and dynamic economic and social ambiance of the telecommunications industry in these exiting times from the perspective of a well-informed and technically astute insider. It's a good read.
Electronic Review of Computer Books
Provides an understanding of telecommunications for those with no technical background. Overviews technologies, explains the structure of the telecommunications industry, and profiles industry segments and vendor types. Technologies important in competition for local calling, high-capacity communication, and Internet access are clarified. Intertwined with technical explanations are examples of how the various vendors interconnect their networks. For nontechnical people working in telecommunications, and for people responsible for the administration of telecommunications services for their organizations. The author is affiliated with Northeastern University. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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8: The Internet
The Internet is a medium that has fundamentally changed the pace of business processes
and the way organizations exchange information with each other. Businesses
sell, place orders, receive orders, collaborate, train employees, provide customer service
and bid for products over the Internet. Consumers commonly use the Internet to
exchange electronic mail with family members, pay bills, conduct online stock transactions,
calculate income tax returns, make travel reservations, shop and conduct research.
They also spend time on the Internet playing games, listening to music and
The Internet is a connection of multiple networks. The networks communicate
with each other over a suite of standardized protocols, Transmit Control Protocol/Internet
Protocol (TCP/IP), in which data is broken up into "envelopes" called packets.
For the most part, network operators use high-speed routers to transmit these packets.
Internet traffic is sent at gigabit speeds. The high-speed lines are the backbone of the
Internet. They carry the greatest amount of Internet traffic. The Internet backbone
transmits requests for information, entertainment, audio and video broadcasts, email
and business-to-business transactions. The different carriers that operate Internet
backbone exchange traffic with each other at metropolitan area exchanges (MAEs)
and network access points (NAPs).
The Web is a vehicle for multimedia presentation of information in the form of
music, audio, video and text. The World Wide Web is not separate from the Internet. It
is a way to navigate from resource to resource on the Internet by clicking on high-lighted
text or graphics from within browsers. As long as they use World Wide Web
browsers, all PCs are compatible with the Web. Users point and click their way from
computer to computer on the Internet. Before the World Wide Web was developed,
documents on the Internet were available only as text. There were no pictures, no
"buttons" to click on to issue commands and no advertising banners. There was also
no color; everything was black and white.
Individuals and organizations connect their locations to the Internet via many
types of telecommunications services including T-1, T-3, analog lines, digital subscriber
line (DSL) services, integrated services digital network (ISDN) and cable TV
facilities. Internet service providers (ISPs) aggregate traffic from many users and send
it over high-speed lines to the Internet backbone. ISPs maintain routers and servers at
their sites. The servers, powerful PCs that can be accessed by many users, perform
various functions. They contain customer email, businesses' e-commerce applications
and home pages for consumers as well as specialized content such as sports information
and online games. Servers are located at hosting sites as well as ISP data centers.
Hosting sites, where Web content such as corporate, ecommerce and entertainment
sites are kept, have servers with information from, for example, search companies
such as AltaVista and online retailers.
The popularity of the Web has made the creation and implementation of technologies
that enable sites to handle spikes in traffic and large amounts of traffic imperative. One of these techniques is caching, which spreads content among servers at the
"edge" of the Internet, closer to end users. In addition to lowering traffic at each server,
caching lowers the cost of bandwidth. It lowers the amount of distance packets
travel to access Web pages.
Innovations also have occurred in search engine techniques and formatting email
for marketing. Search engines are an important tool for organizing sources of online information.
They have become faster and the results are more accurate. Corporations
use them in their own Web pages to help employees, potential customers and trading
partners find information on the corporate Web. Email is now used as a way to disseminate
spam, marketing announcements and newsletters that look similar to Web pages.
These email messages use the same method, Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), as
used to apply formatting and insert graphics on Web sites.
Despite the technological improvements in the Internet, Internet companies are
struggling to find profits. Scores of businesses that operated Web sites have gone out of
business. Moreover, it has been generally agreed that advertising as a primary vehicle
for underwriting the Internet is not viable. To date, gambling (which is illegal in most
states), auctions, pornography, music and games are popular and often profitable on the
Internet. While commercial organizations depend on the Internet for contact with customers
and vendors, e-commerce where businesses exchange purchase orders and pay
bills directly to one another's order entry and accounting systems are in their infancy.
Because the World Wide Web is new, legal, privacy and security questions are being
raised that previously have not been addressed in this context. For example, freedom
of speech for adults sometimes conflicts with protecting children from unsuitable
online material. Online sharing of music and copyrighted articles may interfere with
authors' and musicians' rights to earn royalties. In other instances, Microsoft's control
of PC operating systems and browsers and AOL Time Warner's market share in instant
messaging (IM) may give both companies unfair advantages on the Internet. All of
these issues raise interesting questions about privacy, free enterprise and free speech.
World Wide Web technology is used by commercial organizations to create extranets
and intranets. Extranets use Web technology to create platforms from which
trading partners and customers can communicate. Intranets use the technology for internal
portals and browser access to corporate data. The adoption of Internet technologies
and protocols for internal use by commercial organizations represents a major
impact of the Internet. It has led to faster, more convenient access by employees to
The History of the Internet
The Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) started
the Internet in 1969, in a computer room at the University of California, Los Angeles.
It wanted to enable scientists at multiple universities to share research information. Advanced Research Projects Agency NETwork (ARPANET), the predecessor to the
Internet, was created 12 years after Sputnik, during the Cold War. DARPA's original
goal was to develop a network secure enough to withstand a nuclear attack.
The first communications switch that routed messages on the ARPANET was
developed at Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (BBN
was bought by GTE. Bell Atlantic acquired GTE, changed its name to Verizon and
spun off BBN as Genuity.) ARPANET's network used packet switching developed by
Rand Corporation in 1962. Data was broken up into "envelopes" of information that
contain addressing, error checking and user data. One advantage of packet switching
is that packets from multiple computers can share the same circuit. A separate connection
is not needed for each transmission. Moreover, in the case of an attack, if one
computer goes down, data can be rerouted to other computers in the packet network.
TCP/IP, the protocol still used on the Internet, was developed in 1974 by Vint Cerf
and Robert Kahn. It supports a suite of services such as email, file transfer and logging
onto remote computers.
In 1984, as more sites were added to ARPANET, the term Internet started to be
used. The ARPANET was shut down in 1984, but the Internet was left intact. In 1987,
oversight of the Internet was transferred from the Department of Defense to the National
While still used largely by universities and technical organizations, applications
on the Internet expanded from its original defense work. In particular, newsgroups
used by computer hobbyists, college faculty and students, were formed around special
interests such as cooking, specialized technology and lifestyles. The lifestyles newsgroups
included sexual orientation (gay and lesbian), religion and gender issues.
Computer-literate people were also using the Internet to log onto computers at distant
universities for research and to send electronic mail.
The Internet was completely text prior to 1990. There were no graphics, pictures
or color. All tasks were done without the point-and-click assistance of browsers, such
as Netscape and Internet Explorer. Rather, people had to learn, for example, UNIX
commands. UNIX is a computer operating system developed in 1972 by Bell Labs.
UNIX commands include: m for Get Mail, j for Go to the Next Mail Message, d for
Delete Mail and u for Undelete Mail. The Internet was not for the timid or for computer
The advent of the World Wide Web in 1989 and browsers in 1993 completely
changed the Internet. The World Wide Web is a graphics-based vehicle to link users to
sources of information. It is based on a method whereby users "click" on graphics or
text to be transferred to a site where information can be accessed. In 1993, the Mosaic
browser was developed at the University of Illinois as a point-and-click way to access
the World Wide Web. This opened up the Internet to users without computer skills. It
is no longer necessary to learn arcane commands to open mail, to navigate from site to
site for research or to join chat or newsgroups.
In 1995, the National Science Foundation turned the management of the Internet
backbone over to commercial organizations. Commercial networks such as Sprint, UU-NET
(now part of WorldCom) and Cable & Wireless carry a large portion of the back-bone
Internet traffic. Backbones are analogous to highways that carry high-speed traffic.
Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs)
Bulletin boards were used independently from the Internet. They allowed people
with modems connected to their computers to read information and post information
on a PC.
Users throughout the 1980s used modems, personal computers, communications
software and telephone lines to dial into information on other computers. Many bulletin
boards were used for "chats" and to exchange ideas around specific hobbies. For example,
callers would dial in and type ideas or experiences they had with new software
or computer equipment. The World Wide Web has largely replaced bulletin boards.
Who Runs the Internet?
The Internet is run informally by a number of organizations. Following is an overview
of the key ones...