Free the Internet?


Free the Internet?


Charles Cosson



Charles Cosson '88, Senior Policy Counsel, Microsoft, Author, and Metzger-Conway Fellow.

In the early 1960s, the United States government wanted to create a network that would allow officials to exchange classified scientific and military information on research and development. With concerns about the Cold War and a fear of the Soviet Union’s technological capabilities, those in command needed a communications system that would function during and after a nuclear attack. In response to this situation, the government established the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a “galactic” computer network. Officially called ARPANET, this new system employed the theory of packet switching, where encoded messages are broken up into small pieces and transmitted over a channel, which formed the basis of internet connections. At first, ARPANET was connected to only four major computers at universities in the western United States (UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UCSB, and the University of Utah). Initially limited to only research, education and government purposes, it would take the next 20 years for the internet to adapt to commercial and personal use. Today, it is difficult to imagine life without the internet. In 2008, 74 percent of the population of the United States and 22 percent of the population of the world used the internet. The basic networking system has morphed into the largest and most complex communication device in history.

Publication Date



Internet, Computer Network, ARPANET, DARPA

Free the Internet?