In January 1993, idle regulators at the FCC belatedly discover the burgeoning world of online services. Led by CompuServe, MCI Mail, AOL, GEnie, Delphi, and Prodigy, these services have been embraced by the computer-owning public. Users "log on" to communicate via "e-mail" and "chat rooms," make online purchases and reservations, and tap information databases. Their services are "walled gardens" that don't allow the users of one service to visit or use another. The FCC declares that because these private networks use the publically regulated telephone system, they fall under the purview of the Communications Act of 1934. The commission announces forthcoming plans to regulate the services in the "public interest, convenience, and necessity."READ THE WHOLE THING. The only things government regulation does is to strangle business. If the FCC had grabed control of the internet in 1993...the above scenario is very well what could have happened. It can still happen with the FCC at the helm....
The FCC ignores the standalone Internet because nobody but academics, scientists, and some government bodies go there. So do the online services, which don't offer Internet access.
"Regulating the Internet would make as much sense as regulating inter-office mail at Michigan State University," says the FCC chairman. "The online services are the future of cyberspace."
The online companies protest and vow to sue the FCC, but the heavily Democratic Congress moots the suits by passing new legislation giving the commission oversight of the online world.
The FCC immediately determines that the lack of interoperability among the online systems harms consumers and orders that each company submit a technical framework by January 1994 under which all online companies will unify to one shared technology in the near future. The precedent for this are the technical standards that the FCC has been setting for decades for AM and FM, and for television. The online services threaten legal action again, and again Congress passes new legislation authorizing the FCC to do as it wishes. The online companies hustle to submit a technical framework. Microsoft wants in on the game, so it persuades the FCC to extend the framework deadline to July 1995.
Meanwhile in Switzerland, Tim Berners-Lee has invented the first Internet browser—"WorldWideWeb," he calls it. The Internet continues to creep along on campuses as a marginalized academic/scientific network used mostly for e-mail. A college student at the University of Illinois named Marc Andreessen helps write a more sophisticated graphical browser, which is released to little fanfare in 1993. When Andreessen leaves his graduate school program, he can't get a job in his field of computer sciences and takes a position as a night manager at a Taco Bell. He spends his spare time repairing broken Macintoshes.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Here's an excellent story on just how badly government does things...