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Those ancestors can be understood as reactions to the great AT&T monopoly, its ideology, and its comprehensive control over communications networks.In the late 1960s, (in a sign of how the politics have changed), the Nixon administration’s FCC sought to increase the prospects for competitors in telephone markets.

The end-to-end design principle, in contrast, favored outsiders and startups, who were also “users” of the network and could therefore innovate without the permission of the network owner.On this foundation—the idea of the “open internet”—was built the founding applications of the internet, now omnipresent, such as the World Wide Web and email, plus later innovations, like streaming video and social networking.What rights, if any, should a network’s users have versus its owners?The question is ancient enough to be relevant to medieval bridges, railroad networks, and other “common carriers.” But let’s skip 500 years or so and keep the focus on telecommunications networks, where what we now call net neutrality policy really has two ancestors, both dating from the 1970s.These were at the time newly formed companies, now lost to history, with names like Tymshare, National CSS, Compu Serve, and Dial Data, which offered computer services “over” the network to businesses.

These were the first ancestors of today’s “over-the-top” operations like Netflix, Wikipedia, Google, and so on.

But as phone and cable companies began deploying broadband networks in the late 1990s—using high-speed (for the time) DSL and cable-broadband technologies— the questions first addressed in the 1970s reasserted themselves in new forms.

How would the owners of “the pipes”—the wires that constitute the physical network—treat the applications that ran over those wires?

chair Ajit Pai has proposed repealing longstanding net neutrality rules.

Only he has a different phrase for them: “The Obama administration’s heavy-handed regulations.” Wait a second: Did Obama really invent net neutrality? For better or worse, I was there pretty much from the outset of the modern era.

This new design philosophy stood in sharp contrast to AT&T’s philosophy at the time, which emphasized a centrally organized network specialized for specific purposes—modeled, of course, on the telephone network.