spate of rebuttals.
Steve Crocker, Internet pioneer and current chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has summed up the roles of government and industry in an excellent article. He explains why the Internet could not have been created by private industry without government’s help as funder and convenor and also points out that once the initial infrastructure was in place and its feasibility demonstrated, it was vital for industry to step in and develop products, software and services.
That initial infrastructure began with research and theory leading to the ARPANet, which demonstrated the feasibility of a large scale network. Crtical mass and training were achieved when the government funded the spread of networking to universities through CSNET for computer science departments, the National Science Foundation NSFNet for connecting all US colleges and universities and the NSF International Connections program, which brought in university and research networks in 28 nations, most of which were in the developing world.
In a 1996 Communications of the ACM article Seeding Networks: the Federal Role, I documented the cost of that government effort. The ARPAnet cost $25 million, CSNET $5 million, the NSFNET backbone $57.9 million, connecting universities to the backbone $30 million, and the NSF International connections program $6.6 million. The US taxpayer got a pretty good return on an investment of $124.5 million.
Of course it is not only the US Government. Donald Davies was at the National Physical Lab in England when he coined the term "packet switching" and built an early test network and Tim Berners Lee was working at CERN, which was funded by 20 European governments and the European Union, when he invented the Web.