Telcos vs. Founding ISPs

Hands Off the Internet conflates more things that just aren’t the same. First, they quote a recent story by a college physics sophomore:
Proponents of net neutrality would like you to think that large service providers had nothing to do with inventing our modern Internet, but this notion isn’t true. Even though explorations into the Internet began at major academic universities for the purpose of research, it is highly unlikely that private companies would never have entered into the market of Internet services. Companies eventually moved into the Internet communications market, albeit backed by government protectionism through such policies as the Communications Act of 1934.

Net neutrality not for ‘the little guy’, The only ones who would feel the burden of varying price increases would be large content providers, such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon. By Christopher S. Gordon, Daily Texan, 13 April 2007

Nope, what we want you to know is that the big telcos that are the primary Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the U.S. these days had nothing to do with inventing our modern Internet. They also had very little to do with commercializing it. The first two geographically distributed commercial ISPs were UUNET and PSINet, back in 1990. AT&T, MCI, Sprint, and all the other telcos horned in on the party years later.

Those of us who were on com-priv, the early online mailing list about commercialization and privatization of the Internet, remember this. I helped UUNET get its first funding back in 1987 when it was providing dialup service. I had a PSINet PoP in my office for years. If you want to know much more about early Internet and other network history, see my book, The Matrix, or any of quite a few others.

A current college sophomore probably isn’t old enough to remember any of this, although it wouldn’t hurt if he’d look up some basic Internet history.

However, the people behind Hands Off the Internet should be old enough to remember, and I see Christopher Wolf’s bio brags about how he “was involved in the earliest matters involving the Internet….”

Thus it is mysterious that Hands goes on to say:

Sure, the government invented the Internet, nobody can dispute that. But it’s equally indisputable that private enterprise and the free market made the Internet great. As we look toward the future, it’s still business and the market that will build the next generation Internet. The only question is who pays for it, and the proponents of “net neutrality” want to shift that burden from big companies, including the ISPs and content providers, to you the consumer:

How To Actually Save The Internet, Hands Off the Internet, 19 April 2007

Actually, while the U.S. government funded much of the early invention of the Internet, many other organizations were involved. Private companies indeed had a lot to do with the rapid expansion of the Internet, and some of them invented key features. Telephone companies were not among those inventors, however.

Net neutrality promotes private enterprise; it just doesn’t unfairly promote a tiny number of big telephone companies.