Professor Mike Jackson, Birmingham City Business School

There is much to be praised in President Obama’s plan for a free and open Internet  and much which might inform the polices of European Governments.  On the other hand, in his interview to Recode, he makes claims which really should be challenged:

Obama said: “We have owned the Internet. Our companies have created it, expanded it, perfected it in ways that they can’t compete. And oftentimes what is portrayed as high-minded positions on issues sometimes is just designed to carve out some of their commercial interests. Let’s talk about owning it. We have invented the Internet, we have created the most important technology companies.”

The key technology behind the Internet was simultaneously used in both UK and US computer networks. At the heart of the Internet and what makes it work is a technique called ‘Packet Switching’. U.S. sources often claim that the technique was devised by Paul Baran alone but in fact it had also been implemented by Donald Davies of the UK’s National Physical Laboratory. The term ‘packet’ comes from Davies, not Baran.

If we look at what everyone sees as the friendly face of the Internet, the technology which opened up the Internet to the man or woman in the street, the World Wide Web; we see that the creator was also British. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a UK scientist working at CERN in the 1990’s, is universally recognised as the inventor of this ground-breaking Internet application.

Obama is right to say that US companies have been the leaders in making profit from the Internet. He needs to recognise however that people from all over the globe are contributing to this success.

What would Twitter be without tweeters and how would Facebook make money if we refused to contribute content to it?

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Mike Jackson

Mike Jackson

Director of Academic Quality & Enhancement Birmingham City Business School