The Internet was the subject of an essay in the very first edition of The Texas Pilgrim. In April 2000 I wrote:
Harold Furchtgott-Roth, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, feels strongly that the exploitation of telecommunications and e-commerce competition can’t be centrally managed and that we should allow thousands of “flowers to bloom” and generations of archaic telecommunications regulation to be swept away in the process. I agree, and would add that a rush to tax these new revenue streams would be counter-productive to wealth and job creation that are as yet inconceivable.
To prohibiting the taxation of the internet I would now add regulation, as with so-called “net neutrality”, a condition that we seem to have avoided, at least for the time being.
But now we have a different threat with the specter of President Obama’s plan to end U. S. protection of the open Internet. This plan, which would have terminated the U. S. contract to manage the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) when it expires in September, ran into a storm of protest and was blocked by denial of funding in the current budget. But the intent on the part of the administration to forfeit this role still lives.
Why we would want to surrender this role is mystifying to say the least, although with this administration, I have my ideas. Our oversight protects the network operators who manage the system from political interference. Countries who want to take us out of this role, such as Russia, China, and Iran, can now only block access in their own countries. Think of the damage they could do if we “democratized” this role as protector of the integrity of the open Internet system. Can you imagine the UN with jurisdiction?
As Gordon Crovitz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, has noted, this responsibility is the essence of American exceptionalism, much like the role of the U. S. Navy in enforcing freedom of the sea. We should be championing this role and it continuation, for all the reasons that have made the Internet the miracle of innovation it has become for all the world.