1. Ownership

Nobody owns the internet. Large parts of it are owned by the US corporations who bought them from the US government. But the protocols are in the public domain and to disconnect a private part of the system to assert control over it would be like closing down your international railway station when you are trying to sell train tickets.

Popular demand ensures that telecommunications providers continue to supply and improve internet connections. This is equivalent to improving railway tracks so that anybody's trains may run along them. Closed systems such as America Online (AOL) and CompuServe discovered in 1995 that they had to offer full internet access or lose business. No matter how much they spent on content for their members, CompuServe and AOL ended up learning from the market that "the medium is the message."

Unlike other media it is hard to envisage a Rupert Murdoch or a Bill Gates successfully asserting proprietorial control over the whole network. The chief reason for this is that the massive investment would yield no significant financial advantage. The big money is to be made in cooling down the next generation of cable television along faster and better internet lines,101 and unbridled access to the World Wide Web may just be part of the bargain package.

101 Simon Reeve, 'Taking the wait out of the Web', The European, 2 February, 1998, p. 24