Federal Internet Law & Policy
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Internet History :: 1990s :: Commercial Internet :: Era of Disruption & Competition Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

The Machine that Changed the World (WGBH 1992)


The NSFNET continues. See the NSFNET history on a separate page.

ARPAnet is terminated on Feb. 28, 1990. [Babbage 15] [Living Internet ARPANET] [Living Internet NSFNET] Networks that were connected to ARPANet had migrated to NSFNET. The transition from ARPANET (DOD) to NSFNET (NSF) was complete.

"With the creation of the Federally funded NSFNET in 1985, ARPANET was eventually phased out and replaced by a new Defense Research Internet (DRI) for unclassified military information that would make use of NSFNET. ARPANET and MILNET became the main constituents of a TCP/IP internet DDN (Defense Data Network) - a subset of the Internet operated by the Department of Defense. Other networks in DDN included DISNET (Defense Integrated Secure Network, SCINET (Sensitive Compartmented Information Network) and WINCS (WWMCCS Intercomputer Command and Control System) of the World Wide Military Command and Control System." [NIST 1992 p 5]

Association for Progressive Communications founded. [APC] [Frey p 39]

Experimental mail relay at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives is hooked up to the Internet. [Netvalle] Other email services follow suit.

D Waitzman, RFC 1149 Standard for the transmission of IP datagrams on avian carriers (1 April 1990) (aka Internet over Pigeon)

July Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Founded. [EFF History]

Join EFF!From EFF About HistoryNavigate Away from CT: The Electronic Frontier Foundation was founded in July of 1990 in response to a basic threat to speech. The United States Secret Service conducted a series of raids tracking the distribution of a document illegally copied from a BellSouth computer that described how the emergency 911 system worked, referred to as the E911 document. The Secret Service believed that if "hackers" knew how to use the telephone lines set aside for receiving emergency phone calls, the lines would become overloaded and people facing true emergencies would be unable to get through.

One of the alleged recipients of the E911 document was the systems operator at a small games book publisher out of Austin, Texas, named Steve Jackson Games. The Secret Service executed a warrant against the innocent Jackson and took all electronic equipment and copies of an upcoming game book from Steve Jackson Games's premises. Steve Jackson panicked as he watched the deadline come and go for his latest release and still hadn't received his computers back. He was forced to lay off nearly half of his staff. In the end, the Secret Service returned all of Steve Jackson's computers and decided not to press charges against the company, since they were unable to find any copies of the E911 document on any of the computers.

In the meantime, Steve Jackson's business was nearly ruined. And when he and his employees had the opportunity to investigate the returned computers, they noticed that all of the electronic mail that had been stored on the company's electronic bulletin board computer, where non-employee users had dialed in and sent personal messages to one another, had been individually accessed and deleted. Steve Jackson was furious, as he believed his rights as a publisher had been violated and the free speech and privacy rights of his users had been violated. Steve Jackson tried desperately to find a civil liberties group to help him, to no avail. Unfortunately, none of the existing groups understood the technology well enough to understand the importance of the issues.

In an electronic community called the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (now several informed technologists understood exactly what civil liberties issues were involved. Mitch Kapor, former president of Lotus Development Corporation, John Perry Barlow, Wyoming cattle rancher and lyricist for the Grateful Dead, and John Gilmore, an early employee of Sun Microsystems, decided to do something about it. They formed an organization to work on civil liberties issues raised by new technologies. And on the day they formally announced the organization, they announced that they were representing Steve Jackson Games and several of the company's bulletin board users in a lawsuit they were bringing against the United States Secret Service. The Electronic Frontier Foundation was born!

The Steve Jackson Games case turned out to be an extremely important one in the development of a proper legal framework for cyberspace. For the first time, a court held that electronic mail deserves at least as much protection as telephone calls. We take for granted today that law enforcement must have a warrant that particularly describes all electronic mail messages before seizing and reading them. The Steve Jackson Games case established that principle.

Federal Research Internet Coordinating Committee reorganized as the Federal Networking Council. The FNC “was formed in January 1990 as an interagency forum in support of the evolution of the Internet and other national research and educational computer networks. This council is comprised of science research network project managers from all federal agencies involved in the HPCC. The FNC and its associated working groups provide for the management, coordination, and planning of the NREN program according to programmatic requirements.” R. Aiken, H. Braun, and P. Ford, "NSF implementation plan for interim NREN", in Journal on High Speed Networking, vol. 2, pp. 22. IOS Press, Amsterdam, NL, Jan. 1993. [Salus p. 207] [Cerf 1160]


Trojan Room Coffee Pot goes online (first webcam)

High-Performance Computing Act (December 9, 1991) (sponsored by Al Gore)

Section 3 purpose

The purpose of this act is to help ensure the continued leadership by the United States and high-performance computing and its applications by --

A. Expanding Federal support for research, development, and application of high performance computing in order to --

1. Establish a high capacity and high speed National Research and Education Network;

2. Expand the number of researchers, educators, and students with training in high-performance computing and access to high-performance computing resources;

3. promote the further development of an information infrastructure of databases, services, access mechanisms, and research facilities available for use throughout the network;

Al Gore and the Invention of the Internet

"Vice President Gore is a nationally recognized leader on technology. When he was a member of the U.S. Senate, Gore introduced and steered to passage the High Performance Computing Act to create a national, high-speed computer network and increase research and development of high-performance technologies. That legislation was signed into law in 1991, and is now part of President Clinton's technology and economic plan, the National Information Infrastructure to help move the United States into the 21st Century." Source: Al Gore - A Leader on Technology, White House Archive (Public Domain) Image NCS 1997 (Public Domain).

Al Gore and the Internet
By Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf (original authors of the Internet Protocol)

Al Gore was the first political leader to recognize the importance of the Internet and to promote and support its development.

No one person or even small group of persons exclusively "invented" the Internet. It is the result of many years of ongoing collaboration among people in government and the university community. But as the two people who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the Internet work, we would like to acknowledge VP Gore's contributions as a Congressman, Senator and as Vice President. No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time.

Last year the Vice President made a straightforward statement on his role. He said: "During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet." We don't think, as some people have argued, that Gore intended to claim he "invented" the Internet. Moreover, there is no question in our minds that while serving as Senator, Gore's initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the still-evolving Internet. The fact of the matter is that Gore was talking about and promoting the Internet long before most people were listening. We feel it is timely to offer our perspective.

As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship. Though easily forgotten, now, at the time this was an unproven and controversial concept. Our work on the Internet started in 1973 and was based on even earlier work that took place in the mid-late 1960s. But the Internet, as we know it today, was not deployed until 1983. When the Internet was still in the early stages of its deployment, Congressman Gore provided intellectual leadership by helping create the vision of the potential benefits of high speed computing and communication. As an example, he sponsored hearings on how advanced technologies might be put to use in areas like coordinating the response of government agencies to natural disasters and other crises.

As a Senator in the 1980s Gore urged government agencies to consolidate what at the time were several dozen different and unconnected networks into an "Interagency Network." Working in a bipartisan manner with officials in Ronald Reagan and George Bush's administrations, Gore secured the passage of the High Performance Computing and Communications Act in 1991. This "Gore Act" supported the National Research and Education Network (NREN) initiative that became one of the major vehicles for the spread of the Internet beyond the field of computer science.

As Vice President Gore promoted building the Internet both up and out, as well as releasing the Internet from the control of the government agencies that spawned it. He served as the major administration proponent for continued investment in advanced computing and networking and private sector initiatives such as Net Day. He was and is a strong proponent of extending access to the network to schools and libraries. Today, approximately 95% of our nation's schools are on the Internet. Gore provided much-needed political support for the speedy privatization of the Internet when the time arrived for it to become a commercially-driven operation.

There are many factors that have contributed to the Internet's rapid growth since the later 1980s, not the least of which has been political support for its privatization and continued support for research in advanced networking technology. No one in public life has been more intellectually engaged in helping to create the climate for a thriving Internet than the Vice President. Gore has been a clear champion of this effort, both in the councils of government and with the public at large.

The Vice President deserves credit for his early recognition of the value of high speed computing and communication and for his long-term and consistent articulation of the potential value of the Internet to American citizens and industry and, indeed, to the rest of the world.

1998: "The Internet2 Abilene Network is announced at the White House with Vice President Al Gore, Vint Cerf, and others. The network is made possible through a partnership with Qwest Communications, Cisco Systems, and Nortel Networks." [Internet2 Timeline]

See also

  • Al Gore and the Creation of the Internet by Richard Wiggins First Monday, volume 5, number 10 (October 2000);
  • Ellen Messmer, Bush Administration, Gore Spar Over U.S. Gigabit Net; Both Debate Federal Role in Netís Infrastructure, NETWORK WORLD, Mar. 11, 1991
  • Lee McKnight & W. Russell Neuman, Technology Policy and the National Information Infrastructure, in THE NEW INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE: STRATEGIES FOR U.S. POLICY 137, 139 (William J. Drake ed., 1995) 
  • Kesan, Jay P. and Shah, Rajiv C., Fool Us Once Shame on You - Fool Us Twice Shame on Us: What We Can Learn from the Privatizations of the Internet Backbone Network and the Domain Name System. As published in Washington University Law Quarterly, Vol. 79, P. 89, 119 2001
  • Frontline: So You Want to Buy a President? (PBS television broadcast, Jan. 30, 1996) ("Vice Pres. AL GORE: _because unlike the interstates, the information highways will be built, paid for and funded principally by the private sector. ROBERT KRULWICH: Gore delivered this speech on December 21st and, curiously, the Federal Election Commission records that on that day the Democratic National Committee got a $15,000 contribution from Sprint, the telephone company, and a $10,000 contribution from U.S. West and a $50,000 contribution from MCI and a $15,000 contribution from Nynex, and the next day another $20,000 contribution from MCI and $10,000 more from Nynex.")
  • Office of the Vice President, the White House. 1994. "Vice President Proposes National Telecommunications Reform: Bring the Information Revolution to Every Classroom, Hospital, and Library in the Nation by the End of the Century," press release, January 11, e-mail version;
  • Office of the Vice President, the White House. 1994. "Background on the Administration's Telecommunications Policy Reform Initiative," press release, January 11, e-mail version;
  • Remarks Prepared for Delivery by Vice President Al Gore. 1994. Royce Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles, Calif., January 11, fax;
  • "Administration White Paper on Communications Reforms,'' January 27, 1994, e-mail version.
  • National Research Council, Kleinrock, Kahn, Clark, filed a National Academies of Science report entitled Toward a National Research Network with Congress. This report apparently influenced Sen. Al Gore.

High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Program

Derived From: High Performance Computing & Communications: Toward a National Information Infrastructure OSTP 1994

" The goal of the Federal High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Program is to accelerate the development of future generations of high performance computers and networks and the use of these resources in the Federal government and throughout the American economy. Scalable high performance computers, advanced high speed computer communications networks, and advanced software are critical components of a new National Information Infrastructure (NII). This infrastructure is essential to our national competitiveness and will enable us to strengthen and improve the civil infrastructure, digital libraries, education and lifelong learning, energy management, the environment, health care, manufacturing processes and products, national security, and public access to government information.

The HPCC Program evolved out of the recognition in the early 1980s by American scientists and engineers and leaders in government and industry that advanced computer and telecommunications technologies could provide huge benefits throughout the research community and the entire U.S. economy. The Program is the result of several years of effort by senior government, industry, and academic scientists and managers to initiate and implement a program to extend U.S. leadership in high performance computing and networking technologies and to apply those technologies to areas of profound impact on and interest to the American people.

The Program is planned, funded, and executed through the close cooperation of Federal agencies and laboratories, private industry, and academia. These efforts are directed toward ensuring that to the greatest extent possible the Program meets the needs of all communities involved and that the results of the Program are brought into the research and educational communities and into the commercial marketplace as rapidly as possible.

Now halfway through its five-year effort, the Program's considerable achievements include:

  • More than a dozen high performance computing centers are in operation nationwide. New scalable high performance systems are in operation at these centers, more advanced systems are in the pipeline, and new systems software is making these systems increasingly easy to use. Benchmark results improve markedly with each new generation of hardware and software and bring the Program closer to its goal of achieving sustained teraflop (trillions of floating point operations per second) performance.
  • Traffic on federally-funded networks and the number of new local and regional networks connected to these networks continue to double every year.

More than 6,000 regional, state, and local IP (Internet Protocol) networks in the U.S., and more than 12,000 worldwide, are connected; more than 800 of the approximately 3,200 two-year and four-year colleges and universities in the Nation are interconnected; and an estimated 1,000 high schools also are connected to the Internet. Traffic on the NSFNET backbone has doubled over the past year and has increased a hundred-fold since 1988.

Already, HPCC research in the next generation of networking technologies indicates that the Program goal of sustained gigabit (billions of bits) per second transmission speeds will be achieved by no later than 1996.

  • Teams of researchers have made substantial progress in adapting software applications for use on scalable high performance systems and are taking advantage of the increased computational throughput to solve problems of increasing resolution and complexity.

Many of these problems are "Grand Challenges," fundamental problems in science and engineering with broad economic and scientific impact whose solution can be advanced by applying high performance computing techniques and resources. These science and engineering Grand Challenge problems have motivated both the creation and the evolution of the HPCC Program. Solution of these problems is critical to the missions of several agencies participating in the Program.

  • The base of researchers, educators, and students trained in using HPCC technologies has grown substantially as agencies have provided training in these technologies and in application areas that rely on them.

The HPCC Program fully supports and is closely coordinated with the Administration's efforts to accelerate the development and deployment of the NII. The Program and its participating agencies will help provide the basic research and technological development to support NII implementation. To this end, several strategic and programmatic modifications have been made to the HPCC Program. The most significant of these is the addition of a new program component, Information Infrastructure Technology and Applications (IITA).

IITA is a research and development effort that will enable the integration of critical information systems and their application to "National Challenge" problems. National Challenges are major societal needs that computing and communications technology can help address in key areas such as the civil infrastructure, digital libraries, education and lifelong learning, energy management, the environment, health care, manufacturing processes and products, national security, and public access to government information. The IITA component will develop and demonstrate prototype solutions to National Challenge problems.

IITA technologies will support advanced applications such as:

  • Routine transmission of an individual's medical record (including X- ray and CAT scan images) to a consulting physician located a thousand miles away.
  • The study of books, films, music, photographs, and works of art in the Library of Congress and in the Nation's great libraries, galleries, and museums on a regular basis by teachers and students anywhere in the country.
  • The flexible incorporation of improved design and manufacturing to produce safer and more energy-efficient cars, airplanes, and homes.
  • Universal access by industry and the public to government data and information products.

"the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) presented its plan for HPCC in support of the 1992 budget proposed by the Executive Branch of the Government, including funding for the NREN. This plan along with recent congressional legislation calls for gigabit speeds by 1996." [NIST 1992 p 7] OSTP, Grand Challenges: High Performance Computing and CommunicationsPDF (1991).


" The NREN component will establish a gigabit communications infrastructure to enhance the ability of U.S. researchers and educators to perform collaborative research and education activities, regardless of their physical location or local computational and information resources. This infrastructure will be an extension of the Internet, and will serve as a catalyst for the development of the high speed communications and information systems needed for the National Information Infrastructure (NII).

"The emerging NII will require: advances in the underlying foundations of networking technology and in generic networking services; the development and deployment of major new networking technologies; broader access to state-of-the-art high performance computing facilities; and early testing of new commercial products and services so that these can be effectively integrated into NREN associated networks.

"The principal objectives of the NREN component are to:


Internet Society formed. [NIST 1992 p 7] Internet Activities Board is renamed the Internet Architecture Board. ISOC supports the IAB and the IETF. [Kessler]

"The Internet Society was formed in 1992 by the private sector to help promote the evolution of the Internet, including maintenance of the Internet standards process. In 1992, the IAB was reconstituted as the Internet Architecture Board, which became part of the Internet Society. It delegated its decision-making responsibility on Internet standards to the leadership of the IETF, known as the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). While not a part of the Internet Society, the IETF produces technical specifications as possible candidates for future protocols. The Internet Society now maintains the Internet Standard Process, and the work of the IETF is carried out under its auspices." [Kahn, Role of Govt]

Robert Kahn's account is interesting because, at about the same time, there were a number of other voices overstating the role and authority of the Internet Society:

  • J Reynolds, J Postel, IETF RFC 1700, Assigned Numbers (Oct 1994) ("The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is the central coordinator for the assignment of unique parameter values for Internet protocols. The IANA is chartered by the Internet Society (ISOC) and the Federal Network Council (FNC) to act as the clearinghouse to assign and coordinate the use of numerous Internet protocol parameters.")
  • The IANA website at one point read: "The IANA is chartered by the Internet Society (ISOC) and the Federal Network Council (FNC) to act as the clearinghouse to assign and coordinate the use of the numerous Internet protocol parameters." [Rony p 122]
  • See also a much bolder statement by E Krol, E Hoffman, RFC 1462, FYI on "What is the Internet"? p 4 (May 1993) ("The ultimate authority for where the Internet is going rests with the Internet Society, or ISOC.")

The Internet Society (ISOC) was not founded until about 1991 and could not be the source of authority for IANA or the Internet. ISOC is a nonprofit US corporation located in Northern Virginia, founded by Internet professionals, and had no authority over Internet resources to delegate.

In current discussions, notions of Internet authority being derived from ISOC have been dropped.

Location of MAE-East

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"The US portion of the Internet is made up of different parts. There are Federally subsidized components such as NSFNET, NASA Science Internet (NSINET), Energy Sciences NET (ESNET) and DARPA Test Net (DARPNET) that have agreed to interconnect and carry each other's traffic. There are also commercial networks (PSINET, CERFnet, UUNET/ALTERNET) that are linked together via a commercial internet exchange (CIX) and, via some of its members, linked to the NSFNET backbone. Most midlevel networks are linked to NSFNET and/or commercial networks. International connections have been established through government agreements or through business negotiations by the commercial networks. In all, the US portion of the Internet consists of several government or government subsidized backbones or regional networks, a couple dozen regional/mid-level networks, and thousands or private (industry, university and institutional)networks including private for-profit commercial mid-level and wide-area nets (commercial backbones)." [NIST 1992 p 7]

David Clark proclaimed

"We reject: kings, presidents and voting.
We believe in: rough consensus and running code.

This became the unofficial motto of the IETF. David Clark, "A Cloudy Crystal Ball -- Visions of the Future" (PDF). 1992-07-16. p. 551. (Presentation given at the 24th Internet Engineering Task Force.) This would be followed in 1996 by John Perry Barlow's Declaration of Independence in Cyberspace.

R. Aiken, H. Braun, and P. Ford, "NSF implementation plan for interim NREN", in Journal on High Speed Networking, vol. 2, pp. 1--25. IOS Press, Amsterdam, NL, Jan 1993 ("This document outlines an architecture and implementation plan for the National Science Foundation's Interagency Interim National Research and Education Network (NREN) component of the HPCC Program.")


Philip Elmer-Dewitt, First Nation in Cyberspace, TIME, Dec. 6, 1993 (giving the false impression that Internet stemmed from Paul Baran's work on network survivability)


NSF Privatizes the NSFNET, giving rise to the commercial public Internet.

North American Network Operators Group (NANOG) chartered. [Merit History]

Federal Interconnection exchange (FIX) is opened to commercial traffic. "NASA constructs a Space Act agreement declaring the FIX to be "a unique national asset" and allows commercial use on a cost recovery basis. [Medin Slide 13]

Internet carries 200 TB of traffic. [Odlyzko]

Dec: EFFNavigate Away from CT splits in two; Jeremy Berman departs and forms the Center for Democracy and TechnologyNavigate Away from CT while EFF releases "a sweeping new agenda for 1995 that promises to return the organization to its original grassroots beginning." [Meeks]


Today Show January 1994...What is the Internet?!


1995 PSA Produced by Ray Bjork School, Montana

John Markoff shows an email he received from Steve Jobs
America Online Commercial


Telecommunications Act (including Communications Decency Act)

March: NSF announces solicitation NSF 96-64 Connections to the Internet, for connections to the vBNS

Internet2 announced. [Merit History]

John Perry Barlow Source: Wikipedia

John Perry Barlow, A Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace Navigate Away from CT

"Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

"We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

"Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

"You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.. . . .




Amongst the many complex issues that arose during the Department of Justice and European Community inquiries into the WorldCom acquisition of MCI was the importance of the policy neutrality of the IXPs. Though the CIX was formed as a policy based IXP and the Federal Internet exchanges had policy regulated by the US Government agency networks the MAE-East environment and the formulation of the NSF NAPs were policy neutral. The NAP operator played no policy role; rather they emphasized a policy neutrality and presented their facilities as carrier or service provider neutral for the purposes of the physical location and means of the interconnection between ISPs. At the time of the WorldCom acquisition of MCI the issue of WorldCom's ownership of the MAE's {East and West by this time} raised concerns regarding the perceived maintenance of neutrality and whether regulation might be required to maintain the neutrality of IXPs. [Hussain Historic Role CIX 5]

NSF issue $1 million grant to MERIT, MSU, and U-M in order to interconnect to a very high speed Backbone Network Service. [Merit History]

CyberTelecom goes online [1998 Archive]

After 14 years in existence, the Federal Networking Council is disbanded and its responsibilities are passed on to Large Scale Networking group of the Computing, Information and Communications. [FNC Archive]

NYSERnet launches NYSERnet 2000, an OC12 statewide network to interconnect with the new Internet2. [NYSERnet History]

GTE/BBN and Exodus peering dispute [Hussain Historic Role CIX 7]





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