The Internet: On its International Origins and Collaborative Vision a work In-Progress

IV - Great Britain and the US Plan to Collaborate

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IV - Great Britain and the US Plan to Collaborate
As early as the end of 1970, there was discussion between American and British research groups on how to link the US and UK networks together. One plan was to utilize the connection between the US and Norway connecting the NORwegian Seismic ARray (NORSAR) near Oslo to the US. Describing this discussion, Peter Kirstein of the University College London (UCL)(7) writes:
"In late 1970, Larry Roberts proposed to Donald Davies that it would

be very interesting to link their two networks together. The existence

of the Washington to NORSAR line would make it comparatively cheap to

break the connection in London and link in the NPL network. There were

two problems with this plan; first of all we underestimated the tariff

implications of adding the extra drop-off point; secondly, the timing

could not have been worse from a British national perspective. The

problem was that the British government had just applied to join the

European Community; this made Europe good and the US bad from a

governmental policy standpoint. NPL was under the Department of

Technology and Donald was quite unable to take up Larry's offer. He had

to concentrate on European initiatives like the European Informatics

Network (EIN). In the meantime, I had been interested in the ARPANET

from the beginning; it was therefore agreed early in 1971, that we would

attempt to set up a project link in UCL instead of NPL." (Kirstein, Email,

July 3, 2002)

Through discussion between the UK and IPTO researchers, an agreement was reached for a research collaboration. Larry Roberts, according to Kirstein, "agreed to provide a Terminal Interface Message Processor (TIP) for the project, valued at 50,000 pounds, and to allow us to use the very expensive existing transatlantic link. It was merely for the UK to provide any manpower and travel costs needed to complete the project, and to provide the (assumed modest) cost of breaking the communications link in London....By the end of 1971, the technical proposal was complete." (Ibid.)
Kirstein describes how he struggled through most of 1972 trying to get funding support from the British government without success. "These machinations," he notes, "took most of 1972, and by the end of that period, the situation looked hopeless. Neither the SRC (Science Research Council) nor the DOI (Department of Industry) would supply any finance." (Ibid.)

Also the situation had changed with regard to the Washington to NORSAR link. "The Scandinavian Tanum Earth Station in Sweden had come on-stream," writes Kirstein, "as a result the US Norway connection no longer passed through the UK. Hence a new 9.6 kbps link between London and Kjeller was needed; the cost of this link was going to be very expensive." (Ibid.)(8)

Fortunately, the British Post Office (BPO) and NPL, two British government organizations, came through with the promise of support. Kirstein continues(9):
"Two senior directors of the BPO, Murray Laver of the National Data

Processing Service, and Alec Merriman of Advanced Technology, agreed

to provide the finance for the U.K. Norway link for one year. In

addition, Donald Davies agreed to promise the most he could sign for

personally, (5000 pounds). With these two modest contributions, I told

Larry Roberts that we would proceed."(Ibid.)

Even with this support, however, Kirstein was faced with a difficult working environment in the UK. He writes:
"It would be nice, in retrospect, to have called it a British decision;

it was not. There was grudging support, and the main research initiatives

were in pursuit of the X.25 protocol suite and its upper levels. There

was almost no European activity on the Internet Protocols outside Oslo

and UCL." (Kirstein, Email, October 4, 2002)

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