Internet Veterans Form Think Tank

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale and a handful of Internet heavyweights have formed the Internet Policy Institute to examine Internet issues and the Web’s impact on society.

The new “think tank” will kick off its efforts with a research project on the Internet’s economic impact and an initiative designed to educate the presidential candidates on Internet issues.

Joining Barksdale are MCI Worldcom senior vice president of Internet Architecture Vint Cerf, former ICANN president Esther Dyson — who is now chairwoman of EDventure Holdings, Inc. — and Mario Morino, chairman of The Morino Institute.

Kimberly Jenkins, the founder of a non-profit group that promotes the use of new technology in education, the legislative environment and the democratic process, was named president of the new institute.

The group hopes to distinguish itself from consulting and research firms by remaining nonpartisan and by operating as a non-profit organization. The think tank has already lined up sponsorships from America Online, Inc., AT&T, The Morino Institute, MCI Worldcom, NASDAQ, Network Solutions, Inc., the Potomac KnowledgeWay and The Maverick Foundation.

“The Internet is surrounded by noise, hype, rumors, marketing, IPOs and the hopes of starry-eyed start-ups, but there is very little hard data on which policymakers can base critical decisions that will determine the future of the new medium and how it affects society,” said Barksdale, who co-chairs the institute’s board with Georgia Tech University President Wayne Clough.

Looking for Economic Payoff

The institute’s first research project, a collaboration with the Washington-based Brookings Institution, will examine “the economic payoff from the Internet revolution.” Former Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Alice Rivlin will head the study, along with Robert Litan, a former associate director of the U.S. government’s Office of Management and Budget.

The researchers are aiming to produce “the first comprehensive, systematic economic study by an independent research group” on the Internet’s benefits. They argue that the value of the study will be widespread, as its focus will be on the Web’s impact on monetary policy and the growth rate of productivity.

“The impact the Net has on specific industries, and the way it affects barriers to entry, has important implications for antitrust and regulatory policy,” the institute says.

Future research topics include the role of the Internet in privacy, the Internet’s impact on taxation, and online health care.

On the Campaign Trail

The Internet Policy Institute also hopes to assert its political value early on, with a new publication now available called “Briefing the President: What the Next President of the United States Needs to Know About the Internet and Its Transformative Impact on Society.”

The next paper, “What is the Internet (and What Makes It Work)” is set to be released December 1st, and 13 more papers are on the calendar for the coming months.

All of the papers will be presented to the presidential candidates as briefing papers and will eventually be compiled in book form.

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