The NSF starts to change their policy

While the issue of privatization was being considered by congress, the NSF had to do something to quell the debate over the advantage that was given to ANS. The answer to this problem was a "reinterpretation" of the NSFnet Acceptable Use Policy. In March of 1993, as legislation for the National Information Infrastructure (NII) was being considered, the NSF decided to reinterpret the AUP to allow more commercial traffic over the NSFnet backbone. By stating that the NSF was only a customer of ANS, the AUP was interpreted to mean that ANS was free to use their portion of the backbone however they saw fit. This was a partial answer to the questions over the acceptability of their using the network for commercial traffic (Till Johnson). While this did not satisfy the questions that many had over the "unfair advantage" that was given to ANS, it did help to show that the NSF was willing to consider commercial traffic over their network. Even if it did not satisfy everyone, it was an important step in commercializing the Internet.

When it was known that the physical network was going to need an upgrade, an opportunity was seen to open the floodgates to commercialization of the Internet. One of the first signs that the NSF was buckling under the commercial pressure came in March of 1992 when both sides met at a congressional committee meeting. During that meeting NSF Networking Director, Stephen Wolff told committee chair Rep. Boucher that, "If Congress allowed us to relax it [the Acceptable Use Policy], we'd go along with it." Others outside the NSF were strongly arguing that, "The acceptable use policy should be dropped." It seems like no surprise when the NSF began to move behind commercializing the Internet (Messmer March 1992).

How they commercialized the Internet

The solution to the National Science Foundationıs problem was to alter the way they funded the growing Internet. Due to ANSı apparent success with expanded commercial use of the NSF backbone and the growing success of the non-profit CIX, the NSF felt that market forces were sufficient to sustain an operable national network without their policies or control. It was decided that the network could be handed over to commercial entities; but, it had to be insured that the transition would happen in a fair manor. The answer to the fairness issue came with the 1991 New Project Development Plan, and later The National Information Infrastructure Act of 1993 (Abbate 195-199).

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©2000 John Thomson, Jr