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Valley News



Al Gore and the Internet

By Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf.   

Al Gore was the first political leader to recognize the importance of the
Internet and to promote and support its development.

No one person or even small group of persons exclusively "invented" the
Internet. It is the result of many years of ongoing collaboration among
people in government and the university community. But as the two people
who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the
Internet work, we would like to acknowledge VP Gore's contributions as a
Congressman, Senator and as Vice President. No other elected official, to
our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of

Last year the Vice President made a straightforward statement on his role.
He said: "During my service in the United States Congress I took the
initiative in creating the Internet." We don't think, as some people have
argued, that Gore intended to claim he "invented" the Internet. Moreover,
there is no question in our minds that while serving as Senator, Gore's
initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the still-evolving
Internet. The fact of the matter is that Gore was talking about and
promoting the Internet long before most people were listening. We feel it
is timely to offer our perspective.

As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed
telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the
improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official
to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact
than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship. Though easily
forgotten, now, at the time this was an unproven and controversial
concept. Our work on the Internet started in 1973 and was based on even
earlier work that took place in the mid-late 1960s. But the Internet, as
we know it today, was not deployed until 1983. When the Internet was still
in the early stages of its deployment, Congressman Gore provided
intellectual leadership by helping create the vision of the potential
benefits of high speed computing and communication. As an example, he
sponsored hearings on how advanced technologies might be put to use in
areas like coordinating the response of government agencies to natural
disasters and other crises.

As a Senator in the 1980s Gore urged government agencies to consolidate
what at the time were several dozen different and unconnected networks
into an "Interagency Network." Working in a bi-partisan manner with
officials in Ronald Reagan and George Bush's administrations, Gore secured
the passage of the High Performance Computing and Communications Act in
1991. This "Gore Act" supported the National Research and Education
Network (NREN) initiative that became one of the major vehicles for the
spread of the Internet beyond the field of computer science.

As Vice President Gore promoted building the Internet both up and out, as
well as releasing the Internet from the control of the government agencies
that spawned it. He served as the major administration proponent for
continued investment in advanced computing and networking and private
sector initiatives such as Net Day. He was and is a strong proponent of
extending access to the network to schools and libraries. Today,
approximately 95% of our nation's schools are on the Internet. Gore
provided much-needed political support for the speedy privatization of the
Internet when the time arrived for it to become a commercially-driven

There are many factors that have contributed to the Internet's rapid
growth since the later 1980s, not the least of which has been political
support for its privatization and continued support for research in
advanced networking technology. No one in public life has been more
intellectually engaged in helping to create the climate for a thriving
Internet than the Vice President. Gore has been a clear champion of this
effort, both in the councils of government and with the public at large.

The Vice President deserves credit for his early recognition of the value
of high speed computing and communication and for his long-term and
consistent articulation of the potential value of the Internet to American
citizens and industry and, indeed, to the rest of the world.

28 Sep 2000