International Telecommunication Union
International Telecommunication Financing

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The International Telecommunication Union can date back to 24 May 1844 when Samuel Morse sent his first public message over a telegraph line between Washington and Baltimore, and through that simple act, ushered in the telecommunication age.

Barely ten years later, telegraphy was available as a service to the general public. In those days, however, telegraph lines did not cross national borders. Because each country used a different system, messages had to be transcribed, translated and handed over at frontiers, then re-transmitted over the telegraph network of the neighbouring country.

Given the slow and unwieldy nature of this system, many countries eventually decided to establish arrangements which would facilitate interconnection of their national networks.

However, because such arrangements were managed by each country at a national level, setting up telegraph links often required a huge number of separate agreements.

To simplify matters, countries began to develop bilateral or regional agreements, so that by 1864 there were several regional conventions in place. The continuing rapid expansion of telegraph networks in a growing number of countries finally prompted 20 European States to meet to develop a framework agreement covering international interconnection.

At the same time, the group decided on common rules to standardize equipment to facilitate international interconnection, adopted uniform operating instructions which would apply to all countries, and laid down common international tariff and accounting rules.

On 17 May 1865, after two and a half months of arduous negotiation, the first International Telegraph Convention was signed in Paris by the 20 founding members, and the International Telegraph Union (ITU) was established to facilitate subsequent amendments to this initial agreement. Today, some 135 years later, the reasons which led to the establishment of ITU still apply, and the fundamental objectives of the organization remain basically unchanged.


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International Telecommunication Union