Statists claim that government "invented" the internet. As President Obama told an audience, "The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money."
In the Wall Street Journal, Gordon Crovitz correctly points out that the internet flourished in spite of government, not because of it.
The government did create Arpanet, the world's first decentralized computer network. It was supposed to help the Department of Defense communicate after a nuclear attack. Even then, government scientists relied heavily on inventions by private companies.
Arpanet introduced TCP/IP, the protocol that the internet uses to transfer information. That was useful, but for decades, the government possessed the technology it needed to create the Internet, and did very little with it.
Only as the program was privatized did the private sector make the investments, in money and creativity, that gave us the internet we have now.
Why didn't the private sector develop an Arpanet?
According to Andrew Morriss of The Freeman, two reasons: First, government crowded out the private sector by hiring many talented computer scientists. Second, laws required the FCC to authorize new networks, and "Regulatory barriers to entry, not a lack of entrepreneurial activity, slowed the efforts to build private networks."
In 1995, government fully privatized their network. That's when the current internet started to flourish. Morriss says, "the real Internet grew out of a spontaneous ordering process of the interactions of millions of individual users.... The explosive growth in commerce, for example, became possible only when the government's ban on commercial use of the networks it financed was lifted."
Peter Klein, of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, points out that most of the internet went "unforeseen by its original designers - [but was] developed in the private sector." For example, Xerox and Apple developed "a useable graphical user interface (GUI), a lightweight and durable mouse, and the Ethernet protocol."
Yes, President Obama, government invented the Arpanet. But what happened next shows how government fails, but individuals succeed. Government enacted barriers to private-sector research, and took decades before it allowed all of us to benefit from an important new technology. Once it was privatized, individuals - not government -created the internet that we know today.