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A (Select) Political History of the Internet

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There have been many accounts of the ‘history of the Internet’ written by participants and observers of the development of this technology. However, they are almost exclusively concerned with documenting key technicians and engineers and attributing their achievements and contributions to the code and architecture now in use (Leiner et al., 1997; Berners Lee, 2000; Ceruzzi, 2000). The political forces surrounding those developments are rarely referenced in these accounts and given no substantive place in understanding the progression of the Internet from a military research project to a global network. Key enabling legislature, ownership and management of the physical infrastructure of the Internet, the role of the state in Internet governance and the influence of governmental perceptions and intentions in shaping the technology are largely absent in these histories. By focusing exclusively on technological ‘stepping stones’, these accounts suggest the kind of ‘grand avenue’ approach to technology described in Chapter 2 — that is, that technology evolves in a social and political vacuum without reference to the norms and values of the society in which it is embedded. In fact, political decisions have played an integral role in the development of Internet technology and this chapter lays out some of the key moments, actors and policies which make up the ‘political history of the Internet’.


  • Federal Communication Commission
  • Critical Infrastructure
  • Internet Technology
  • Network Neutrality
  • Political History

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© 2016 Madeline Carr

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Carr, M. (2016). A (Select) Political History of the Internet. In: US Power and the Internet in International Relations. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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