America's Most Innovative Economic Engine Needs Congress to Take Action

The Internet.

Although development began over a half century ago, the internet wasn’t available to everyday Americans until Congress opened it to privatization in the 1990s. Since then, it has become the most powerful economic engine and platform the world has ever seen, simultaneously transforming nearly every aspect of our lives.

With nearly 4 billion people on the internet (source:, making up roughly half of the world’s population, the breadth and depth of the internet is expected to increase. However, the industry is still in its infancy, and the rapid growth and innovation since commercialization is not a predictor of future success.


Of all American adults use the internet, up from just over half in the year 2000. (source: PEW)


Of Young American adults (18-29) currently use the internet, up from 70% in 2000. (source: PEW)


The internet industry now makes up over 6% of the US economy, measured as a percent of GDP. (source: Internet Association)

The Survey.

New survey findings show that a majority of Americans would support net neutrality legislation to enable internet usage free from government or corporate censorship and to create one set of rules that applies to all internet companies. Such legislation would ensure a level playing field that benefits consumers and ensures the world's most powerful and innovative platform continues to grow.

The survey also shows that Americans have grown more concerned, not less, about issues surrounding a free and open internet in recent years, particularly for a majority of young Americans who think the internet is already overly regulated.

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The Internet. A brief history.



The U.S. Department of Defense’s emerging technology agency, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), was tasked with developing packet network switchers for military communications use. The first message was sent over the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) from a computer lab at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to the second network node at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). UCSB and the University of Utah were connected soon after.



While working on the ARPANET for contracting organization BBN, MIT graduate Ray Tomlinson invented a new way to send messages to other computers, thus “electronic mail,” or “email,” as we know it today, was born.



Stanford University computer scientist, Vinton Cerf, develops “Transmission Control Protocol,” or TCP, and “Internet Protocol,” known as IP, as a new standard for computers across multiple networks to communicate with one another. It would take nearly ten years until ARPANET adopted the standards.


Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Early networks were intended for government and educational purposes, while commercial use was forbidden. Several ISPs created regional research networks among government and educational organizations, but in 1989 the first commercial ISP, "The World," launched, although it was forbidden to operate on the government’s advanced ARPANET and NSFNET networks.


The World Wide Web

Working for CERN in Switzerland, Sir Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web. This wasn’t just a network to send files back and forth, but rather a database of information that anyone on the network could access. He implemented the first successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the internet the same year. This is the internet as it is known today.


Web 1.0

A group of students and researchers at the University of Illinois, including Marc Andreessen, created Mosaic (later Netscape), a web browser that gave users the ability to view images and text on a single page, click and scroll. Soon thereafter, U.S. Congress passed the Scientific and Advanced-Technology Act, which allowed commercial use of the web, leading to the internet’s explosive growth after full privatization in 1994.


Web 2.0

American households rapidly became internet users as accessing and browsing on the web became easier and faster with programs and designs tailored to consumers. After a brief crash, the internet industry quickly sprang back. The cost of the personal computer significantly declined, program speed increased and hard drive technology emerged.


The Mobile Revolution

The power of computer processing accelerated and network accessibility significantly expanded, rapidly leading to the adoption of the laptop computer and other smaller devices, including the modern-day smartphone. Apple Inc. released the iPhone in 2007, forever changing the world as we know it.


Net Neutrality 1.0

While net neutrality has been a hot issue since the beginning of the commercial internet, the debate erupted in the late 2000s when the FCC considered new ways to regulate the emerging technology. Rather than look to Congress to enshrine the rules of the road into law in 2011, the FCC chose to regulate the internet itself. When the courts ruled that doing so was acting outside of the FCC’s legal jurisdiction, they also made the decision to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II authority of the Communications Act of 1934.


Net Neutrality 2.0

The FCC under the Trump Administration is revisiting Net Neutrality rules just two years after implementation of Title II, reopening the debate and creating uncertainty about the future of net neutrality. This near constant regulatory turmoil is why, when it comes to net neutrality, Americans favor a permanent law over regulations that can be changed from administration to administration. According to polling data from a 2017 CALinnovates Internet Attitudes Study, seventy-four percent of Americans said they would support net neutrality legislation that would enable internet usage free from government or corporate censorship and would create one set of rules that applies to all internet companies — ensuring a level playing field that benefits consumers.