Via Ender's Review
. Although the Internet we know grew out of the Pentagon's ARPA, Julian Sanchez
points out that computer geeks went a long way in the meantime toward cobbling together a more decentralized net of their own. Starting in the late 70s, Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes), miniature networked communities, proliferated around the country. And in 1984 Tom Jennings' FidoNet linked up to 35,000 BBSes into one network. So given the preexisting telecommunications infrastructure (itself the result of massive subsidies, of course), the creation of some Internet-equivalent through bottom-up organization was predictable. Of course, such a system would have probably been lower-volume, and a lot less streamlined: the equivalent of the long-distance network before direct dialing. But (ignoring the extent to which the electronics industry and the telecom system are themselves legacy beneficiaries of earlier state intervention) it would have existed
, and without being built by the government.