I smiled when I typed that because I envisioned a few people (I used few cause just a few read my blog) really got excited and said no way is that happening. Let me re-phrase my title and say the internet, as we know it, may come to an end. Remember, if the internet were a country, it would be the fifth largest in the world.
The idea of regionalized internet is growing legs. Countries from South America and Europe, among others, are having a growing issue that the internet has become so large and is becoming unmanageable. At least, it has become too vulnerable.
At a December 2012 United Nations treaty conference in Dubai, the first in history to consider the global control and regulation of the Internet, 89 countries approved a new telecommunications accord that contains a resolution calling for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialized UN agency, to play an enlarged, as yet unspecified role in Internet governance. The United States and 54 other nations, including the countries of the European Union, refused to sign on. But in April, post-Snowden, Neelie Kroes of the European Commission stated: “The Internet is now a global resource demanding global governance.” This fall, the ITU will meet to define its mandate, including its potential authority to recommend Internet regulations.
Some experts anticipate a future with a Brazilian Internet, a European Internet, an Iranian Internet, an Egyptian Internet—all with different content regulations and trade rules, and perhaps with contrasting standards and operational protocols. Eli Noam, a professor of economics and finance at Columbia Business School, believes that such a progressive fracturing of the global Internet is inevitable. “We must get used to the idea that the standardized internet is the past but not the future,” he wrote last fall. “And that the future is a federated internet, not a uniform one.” Noam thinks that can be managed, in part through the development of new intermediary technologies that would essentially allow the different Internets to talk to each other, and allow users to navigate the different legal and regulatory environments.
What brought this on?
That brings us to Edward Snowden and the U.S. National Security Agency. Snowden’s disclosures of the NSA’s surveillance of international Web traffic have provoked worldwide outrage and a growing counterreaction. Brazil and the European Union recently announced plans to lay a $185 million undersea fiber-optic communications cable between them to thwart U.S. surveillance. In February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the European Union to create its own regional Internet, walled off from the United States. “We’ll talk to France about how we can maintain a high level of data protection,” Merkel said. “Above all, we’ll talk about European providers that offer security for our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send e-mails and other information across the Atlantic.”
Merkel’s exploration of a closed, pan-European cloud-computing network is simply the latest example of what the analyst Daniel Castro of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation calls “data nationalism,” a phenomenon gathering momentum whereby countries require that certain types of information be stored on servers within a state’s physical borders. The nations that have already implemented a patchwork of data-localization requirements range from Australia, France, South Korea, and India to Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Anxieties over surveillance … are justifying governmental measures that break apart the World Wide Web and the era of a global Internet may be passing.
The large internet companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Google and eBay would surely see their global reach diminish. The largest seller, from a worldwide standpoint of domain names, comes from the United States. These giants may get knocked down a bit.
Nothing last forever.
Tomorrow’s Blog- O Beautiful for Spacious Skies- Land of the Free and Home of the Brave
The opinions in this blog are those of Tom Knuppel.