Tonight at 6pm ET, a group of "tech elders"—graybeards who helped conceive and build what we now take for granted as "the Internet"—will celebrate Internet Independence Day. That's the moment in 1995 when the government got out of the business of providing the Internet backbone and private companies took over.
As Daniel Berninger put it in a piece for Reason.com:
The goal of the event is to draw attention to the recent decisions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to turn itself into the Federal Computer Commission and regulate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) under rules and regulations originally created in the 1930s and applied to old-time telephone companies. If the past two decades prove anything, they prove that Internet got great when the government got out….
To the extent that problems exist in cyberspace—and they always will, as long as the Internet is constantly growing, evolving, and expanding—they are being handled via a mix of consumer advocacy, business competition, and technological innovation. For all the fears and chatter about just how awful current ISPs are, there are two decades we can look back on to see how the Internet flourished after government vacated the territory.
Twenty years of Internet independence won the communicating public a thousand-fold improvement versus the 56Kbps dial-up modems available in 1995. Access options now exceed the 45Mbps capacity of Internet backbone links in 1995. A similar accomplishment over the next 20 years requires expanding Internet access options to match the 100Gbps link capacity underlying today's Internet backbone.
The event starts tonight at 6 p.m. ET and can be livestreamed here.
The tech elders behind the celebration include:
John Perry Barlow, lyricist and activist
Mark Cuban, founder, AXS TV
Tim Draper, founder, Draper Fisher Jurvetson
Tom Evslin, founder & former, CEO ITXC
Dave Farber, professor emeritus, CMU and Board Member ISOC
Charlie Giancarlo, senior advisor, Silver Lake
George Gilder, author
John Gilmore, activist
Doug Humphrey, co-founder Digex, Cidera
Bryan Martin, chairman and CTO, 8×8
Scott McNealy, co-founder, SUN Microsystems
Bob Metcalfe, professor, University of Texas and inventor of Ethernet
Jeff Pulver, co-founder, Zula and Vonage
Ray Ozzie, creator of Lotus Notes, and former, CTO Microsoft