Abstract: Satellite Communications, Organizational Arrangements, and the Global Context of Entrepreneurial Activity

Hugh R. Slotten


The development of communication satellites during the 1960s was a major technological innovation that has played an important role in establishing not only new global communication industries but also new business relationships connected to the process of economic globalization. This paper uses the example of satellite communications to explore how entrepreneurial activity is embedded in organizational arrangements. Specifically, this paper examines the establishment of the first global satellite communication system, Intelsat. Policy entrepreneurs in the United States decided to establish a satellite communications system open to all countries in the world. Partly as a response to cold war competition with the Soviet Union, the Kennedy administration overturned the previous administration's policy of treating satellite communications as simply an extension of traditionally regulated telecommunications. Instead of allowing private communication companies to set up separate systems that would likely primarily serve profitable communication routes to Europe or other major developed regions, the U.S. government decided to take the lead in establishing a single world system. Interconnected organizational and technical innovation reflected a new view of international communications. The paper specifically explores the strategies used by the United States to convince developing countries to participate in the global system.