Why American Exceptionalism Matters When It Comes To the Internet
I’m not sure if it’s ever been said, but the Internet could not have come into existence without America. I’m not just talking about DARPANet, and the investment of the American people (and the American government) over the course of many years in the development of the ‘net itself—but the very concept, a system where the open exchange of ideas and information can move at the speed of light (literally) is one that could only be born in an environment where such an open exchange of ideas is an essential element of the society.
Only America has that combination of open dialogue, entrepreneurship and perseverance that could make an invention like the internet happen—other nations may have elements, but not all of them or to the same degree. The ‘net could not have come out of any nation in Europe—and certainly not out of China or Japan.
Which is why the move to turn over one of the internet’s core functions, domain name functions, to some sort of international body, is so distressing. Don’t get me wrong—there are times and places for international cooperation (even control) of a variety of trans-border policy issues, but the move by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to try and relinquish oversight of a “national IT asset” like the “root zone file” (funded by the American taxpayer and created by the US Department of Defense) is a fundamentally bad idea.
There’s a letter from Senators Grassley and Cruz, and US Representatives Goodlatte and Issa HERE, but the thing to keep in mind is why this is important over the long term.
No other nation, not a single one, has the respect for the transfer of information that we do. Even the most classically liberal nations, the ones from which we derive our concepts of American civil liberties, do not have the respect for both the protection of speech, while at the same time the respect for the entrepreneurial spirit that drives online innovation.
And these are the nations that stand on the side of freedom—once the US relinquishes control, nations that have little or no respect for these principles now also have a say in management of the internet. This can only create massive problems down the road.
Control of the Internet’s core functions should (and must) remain in and with the United States. Our exceptional nature has made our control both judicious and innovative, and there is no reason to change that anytime soon.