Do people not remember the origin of "The Internet"? It started as a Defense Project to ensure communications in the event of a nuclear war... They opened it up to universities, and then to the public. Back then they did a fairly decent job of being hand-off. It wasn't until they turned over to private corps, that it started to go downhill.
As it turns out, that's a common belief - and it's wrong.
While it's true that a 1962 RAND Corporation white paper authored by Paul Baran theorized that a packet-switched data network could allow military communications to survive a general nuclear war, that was entirely a thought experiment. The Department of Defense filed it away and largely forgot about it.
It wasn't until 1965, after accepting a position at DARPA, that an electrical engineer named Robert W. Taylor first got the idea for what would eventually become first the DARPAnet, then the ARPAnet, and finally the Internet.
As a condition of the DARPA grants that helped fund their experiments, research teams at three different major research centers were required to install remote terminals at DARPA for their - entirely separate and self-contained - multi-user mainframe systems. These were the first computers to operate interactively, rather than in what mainframers call "batch mode", and support multiple, concurrent user sessions via dumb terminals with line printers as their "displays". One of Taylor's assignments was to monitor and liase with the scientists who built and ran this trio of individual experimental systems, and he quickly noticed that something very like what we would think of as newsgroups spontaneously appeared on all three systems. (That is to say that computer scientists who had accounts on all three, separate, not interconnected in any way systems had each decided that something very much like a computer BBS or Usenet-style messaging system would be a useful addition, and had - again, independently - hacked such a tool together for the users of each of these systems to communicate with each other in a way that had some degree of persistence and which was accessible to the entire user community of that particular machine.)
The fact that users on each system had more-or-less-simultaneously decided such a tool was desireable, and had developed code to create it - and we're talking three different sets of code here - without ever communicating with the other two teams greatly interested and excited Taylor. He immediately wondered what would happen if all three systems were physically connected together in a way that would allow their users to communicate not only with each other, but with users on the other two systems, as well. He took that idea to his supervisor, one Charles Herzfeld, who thought it might have merit. Herszfeld asked Taylor to draw up a formal proposal, and committed, sight unseen, to fund it to the tune of a million dollars (which was real money in 1965).
So Taylor wrote a proposal, and with a million bucks to spend on it approached the managers of the three, separate multiuser systems with his idea to interconnect their systems. All three turned him down flat.
Robert W. Taylor was from Texas, where they grow 'em stubborn, so he persisted in pitching his idea to the three managers of different, multiuser mainframe systems, despite their continued objections that each saw no merit in his proposal, and each considered it a potentially major distraction from the purposes for which each of their disparate systems had been created. Eventually, over the course of time, he wore them down to the point where he got two of them to agree to at least test the idea. It took nearly two years from then before all the ducks were duly aligned, the necessary equipment designed and built, and the long-distance, dedicated telephone lines contracted for.
At 22:30 hours on October 29, 1969, the first two nodes of what was dubbed the DARPAnet - at UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute - began exchanging data packets. The first two characters exchanged between them were successfully received. The system crashed when the third packet was sent.
But there was no turning back from there.
Taylor left DARPA to take a job as director of information systems at the University of Utah - which became the network's third node. He went on to be the founding director of computer research at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center - whose network-centric, GUI-driven Alto computer was the direct inspiration for the Apple Macintosh. (I say that, because Steve Jobs signed an NDA to get a look at the Alto in 1979 - and started development on the Macintosh after Xerox cloroformed the Alto project.)
I know these things because of a long phone call Taylor made to me after I said the same thing you did - except I said it in my column in Boardwatch Magazine, to which he subscribed. Throughout that conversation, Mr. Taylor insisted that the network of computers he had envisioned and brought into being while at DARPA, was a pure research project, with no connection at all to Paul Baran's thought experiment, other than being based on the packet-switched networking idea Baran had imagined, but never actually pursued.
Our conversation sparked me to write what became the cover story for the December, 2000 issue of Boardwatch. You should read it ,,.