The simple answer to the question written above is this: nobody yet everybody owns the internet. The system of interconnected networks called the internet was originally developed by the US Government, specifically the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), because it had provided necessary benefits to the functions of the United States Department of Defense, and also the participating universities for research and development. The internet was mainly used to allow the staff of the Department of Defense to perform time-sharing on their computers, which would allow them to multitask or perform a multitude of actions by using connected machines via a network.
Had the internet been invented by a private company, the inventors would have probably placed it on the market for commercial purposes, but since the United States was the first to develop it, neither the government nor the universities funded by the US to carry out research to improve the internet thought about profiting from their creation. The US government stuck to the wise plan to not ride two horses at the same time, which are governance and business, since it would contradict the government’s mission of giving their people what they need versus profiteering from them.
Before the invention of the internet, the government had previously transferred the rights to use AM and FM radio, and also the UHF television to the private sector after they were sponsored to continue the development of these technologies. However, the US Government has not given up control of the networks found on the internet, but it has refrained from harnessing the power of the technology to make a profit.
Because of the private sector’s involvement in funding the government’s development of the internet, a number of internet service providers (ISPs) were founded to capitalize on the internet’s potential in the commercial market. The private companies created their own small and local networks and allowed people to connect with the network that links them to the internet.
As the number of ISPs began to grow over the years, the coverage of the internet continued to expand not only in the US but also in other countries, which led to it eventually becoming a worldwide network. The last vestige of the US Government’s ownership over the internet was severed during the presidency of Bill Clinton in 1998 when the internet’s domain name system that authenticates IP addresses of users was transferred to private companies.
Although the internet is no longer owned by the government of the United States, they remain to have some indirect control over its networks. In a way, one cannot easily say, or it will not be entirely correct to state that the internet is completely independent of the US government or any other country in the world.
Today, the authority for the authentication of domain names for websites or IP addresses of internet users are being monitored by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which currently has a headquarters in the state of California in the United States. The suffixes that follow the names of the websites on the internet, such as .com, .org, .edu, etc., must go through an approval process in the said agency. Since this corporation is under the control of the US Department of Commerce, you can say that the inspection or the handling of domain names on the internet is ultimately in the hands of the government. Therefore, the US Government has the final say on which websites are going to be allowed to have space on the internet. This situation may be the same for some countries, although there are still a few who don’t have an agency like ICANN.