Monday, October 12, 2020

Fragmentation Threatens the Global Internet

Influential thought leader Roger Cochetti is concerned about the impact of governments asserting control over the internet within their borders. Mr Cochetti was an internet public policy expert for IBM in the early 1990s and later served as Senior Vice-President & Chief Policy Officer for VeriSign and Group Policy Director for CompTIA.

Over at SlashDot, we read about the balkanization of the global information superhighway. One needs to recognize that — by most any measure — the global internet is controlled by businesses and non-profits subject to the jurisdiction of the United States government. Within a roughly 1,000-mile strip of land stretching from San Diego to Seattle lie most major internet businesses and network control or standards bodies (and those that aren't there likely lie elsewhere in the United States). So — as the governments of China, Russia and Iran never tire of explaining — while Americans constitute around 310 million out of the world's 4.3 billion internet users (around 8%), the U.S. government exercises influence or control over more than 70% of the internet's controls and services

The first major step in the introduction of a new, China-centric internet may have taken place last year when China introduced to the UN's International Telecommunications Union a proposal for a new type of protocol that would connect networks in a way comparable to, but different from, the way that the internet protocols have done. This was quickly dubbed China's New IP, and it has been the subject of major controversy as the nations and companies decide how to react. Whether a new Chinese-centric internet is based on a new series of protocols or is simply based on a new set of internet domain names and numbers, it seems likely that this alternate internet will give national governments quite a bit more control over what happens within their territories than does the global, open internet. This feature will attract quite a few national governments to join in — not least Russia, Iran and perhaps Turkey and India. 

The combined market power of those participating countries would make it difficult for any global internet business to avoid such a new medium. The likely result being two, parallel global computer inter-networking systems... which is pretty much what Google CEO Eric Schmidt predicted.

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