Imagine what would happen to the students if their free public library was converted into a private shopping mall featuring free-range child care, do-it-yourself medicine, and jumbo steak knives for all.

1988: The first official commercial use of the NSFNET began with Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf. He persuaded the government to allow MCI Mail to link with federal networks—the Internet—for “experimental use.” Soon after, other companies such as Compuserve and Sprint gained permission for “experimental use” for commercial email. The stated rationale was that these commercial providers would enhance research and educational uses by allowing researchers to communicate with more people.[1]

1989: A bill introduced in Congress in 1989 acknowledged eventual control and ownership of the infrastructure by commercial providers. The language of this bill by Senator Al Gore highlighted the importance of the private sector. In regards to a national network, the bill stated that THE NETWORK SHALL BE PRIVATIZED (National High Performance Computer Technology Act).[1]

1990: The plan to privatize the Internet was agreed a private meeting. This meeting, described in the document "Commercialization of the Internet: Summary Report" was held March 1-3, 1990 at Harvard University...Attendance at the workshop was by invitation only. Listed participants included representatives from the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the RAND Corporation, Brookings Institute, DARPA, MERIT, AT&T, MCI, AMERITECH, EDUCOM, Sprint International, Research Libraries Group, U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, State of Ohio, IBM, Litel Telecommunications, Corporation for National Research Initiatives, Performance Systems International, UUNET, Digital Equipment Corporation, and the National Science Foundation.[2]

Stephen Wolff of the NSF outlined the distinction between commercialization and privatization of the NSFNet. The distinction he made is that "commercialization" is "permitting commercial users and providers to access and use Internet facilities and services," while "privatization" is "the elimination of the federal role in providing or subsidizing network services."[2]

1991: In March, the NSFNET acceptable use policy is altered to allow commercial traffic.[3]

1993: Eternal September (also September that never ended) is an expression for the period beginning September 1993 and encapsulates the belief that an endless influx of new users (newbies) since that date has continuously degraded standards of discourse and behavior on Usenet and the wider Internet.[4]

1994: President Clinton challenged Congress during his State of the Union Address Jan. 25, 1994, to pass legislation this year that will assist in the creation of the national information infrastructure (NII). The president said, "... we must also work with the private sector to connect every classroom, every clinic, every library, every hospital in America into a national information superhighway by the year 2000. Think of it. Instant access to information will increase productivity. It will help to educate our children. It will provide better medical care. It will create jobs. And I call on the Congress to pass legislation to establish that information superhighway this year."[5]

1994: On September 15, 1994, the U.S. government announced a plan to privatize the NSFNet backbone to the Internet. The plan, the National Information Infrastructure Agenda for Action (NII), proposed to privatize the public NSF backbone and put network development into private hands subject to so called "market forces", thereby subordinating an advanced sector of the U.S. economy to a more backward sector.[2]

1995: With the private, commercial market thriving, NSF decommissions the NSFNET, allowing for public use of the Internet.[3]

1998: The year 1998 marked the end of NSF’s direct role in the Internet. That year, the network access points and routing arbiter functions were transferred to the commercial sector. And after much debate, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration formalized an agreement with the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN) for oversight of domain name registration.[6]

2008 Vint Cerf Wonders If We Need To Nationalize the Internet

The 3rd Law of Media
Reversal—Every form, pushed to the limit of its potential, reverses its characteristics.


  1. The Privatization of the Internet’s Backbone Network
  2. Imminent Death of the Net Predicted!
  3. NSF: An Overview of the first 50 years
  4. September that never ended
  5. DoD Software and the National Information Infrastructure
  6. A Brief History of NSF and the Internet