Public history

The delicate balance between expansion, innovation and maintenance of the Luxembourg Telephone Network

Since its establishment in 1885, the Luxembourg telephone network was characterised by bottlenecks in network expansion, which were in the course of the 20th century to be remedied by new cables (expansion) and new distribution technology (innovation). However, the envisioned expansion was repeatedly slowed down by a lack of trained technical staff and resources. For example, requests for new connections had repeatedly to be rejected and already planned expansion measures had to be postponed. Due to the one-sided focus of government and Luxembourg Post (PTT) administration on network expansion, the maintenance and repair of the network suffered at the same time, so that more frequent defects occurred. At the same time did the repair of defects tie up human and material resources that were then not available for expansion works. The PTT was thus confronted with a constant balancing act between the expansion and modernisation of the network and its maintenance, with the management level prioritising expansion and innovation. The problem was particularly virulent during the rapid expansion of telephony in the 1960s and 70s, but the paper will trace the fundamental conflict of interests for the first one hundred years of telephony in Luxembourg. The paper draws on legal documents and PTT reports to show how the construction, expansion and maintenance of the telephone network was envisioned, and how the shortage of technical staff and resources hampered the smooth operation of the system.

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