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Twenty Years after the Birth of the Modern Internet, U.S. Policies Continue to Help the Internet Grow and Thrive

May 1, 2015

Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to speak at the United States Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI) to a group of foreign government officials focused on Internet and cybersecurity issues. My talk focused on how NTIA sees the role of the Internet in the U.S. economy, and what key policies have contributed to the strength of the U.S. Internet economy. 

Participants included representatives from Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda. The daylong course, organized by NTIA’s Office of International Affairs, introduced basic concepts in Internet policymaking and governance to build awareness, and develop and improve policymaking skills while working in a multistakeholder environment with government, civil society, industry and others. The course, which will take place again in September, examined U.S. Internet policy approaches, taking into consideration some of the key international issues and debates occurring globally.

Our discussion happened to fall on the 20th birthday of the commercial Internet, which fit right into my theme. The NSFnet was decommissioned on April 30, 1995, paving the way for the commercial use and private governance of the Internet. In its wake, we have witnessed an extraordinary explosion of innovation and economic growth in the online environment.

These are six key policies that I believe have contributed to the strength of the U.S. digital economy and provide a model for developing countries, such as those that participated in the USTTI course, to consider as they seek to grow their economies:

  • Trusting the Private Sector: This is particularly powerful as we are celebrate the 20th anniversary of the U.S. decision to take a network it had originated and trust it to the private sector to innovate and take the Internet to the next level. NTIA has long been involved in encouraging the Internet community – working through multistakeholder processes – to move forward with great ideas.
  • Connecting Users: The U.S. government has invested heavily in supporting broadband access and penetration with a range of programs aimed at supporting the deployment of broadband. NTIA’s BroadbandUSA is an initiative to support community broadband projects and to promote broadband deployment and adoption.
  • Empowering Users: U.S. policies have empowered users to access knowledge, communicate, express their opinions and launch small businesses to reach global audiences.
  • Protecting Platforms: U.S. law provides strong protections for online platforms from undue interference and regulation. A critical example of U.S. law is “Section 230” of the Communications Act as amended in 1996, which protects online platforms against claims arising from hosting information posted by users and other third parties.
  • Strong and Balanced Intellectual Property Regime: The United States is dedicated to the protection of intellectual property to foster and protect creativity. The United States supports a balanced approach to intellectual property that includes an emphasis on enforcement and protection but also recognizes limitations and “fair use.”
  • Reliance on Multistakeholder Policy Approaches: Throughout all of our work, we have looked to multistakeholder consensus-based processes to keep the Internet and its innovation moving forward.  NTIA, working with other parts of the Department of Commerce through the Internet Policy Task Force, has supported multistakeholder efforts focused on the domain name system, privacy, intellectual property and cybersecurity. To help preserve the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance, NTIA last year announced it would transition our stewardship role over key functions related to the Internet’s domain name system to the global multistakeholder community. NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling earlier this week reiterated why we believe this is the best way to ensure the Internet continues to grow and thrive.

These policies have contributed to unprecedented economic growth and security in the United States, and led to breakthroughs across national priorities from health care, education and energy. We are excited to see what the Internet, and the free flow of information across it, will spur in the coming years.