Remaking the Internet

Posted Feb 06, 2004 in Technology.

BBC News Online is carrying an article by technology analyst Bill Thompson, in which he talks about how he would like to "throw away today's network and build a new one, one which can be properly regulated."

At first reading I found that statement rather alarming, but as I began to absorb what he was saying, I realized that there might be some sense to it. Unfortunately, the tone began to change, as these excerpts will demonstrate:

It will be a network on which freedom of speech is guaranteed by law, not simply allowed because of technical decisions on network architecture made 30 years ago by a bunch of academic computer scientists.

If we don't like the fact that the net allows traffic to cross national borders without any controls, then we can build a new network that does allow monitoring.

One part of the problem is that the net's standards are controlled by bodies like Icann and the Web Consortium whose primary interest is technical stability and corporate interests.

Before we can change the net, and make it more able to reflect the real public interest, taking it under democratic control, we must remove it from the hands of these groups, whose time, like that of the elves in Middle-Earth, is over.

I would rather see the network in the hands of governments who can be lobbied, replaced and argued with, than leave it in the hands of the large corporations who develop the programs or standards bodies who are blind to people's real interests.

It is perhaps that last statement of his that has me the most worried. Under no circumstances would I want the primary source of free (and I don't mean that in the fiscal sense) information to be completely controlled by governments. Also, it is standards bodies like the World Wide Web Consortium that do the most to promote the interoperability that has made the World Wide Web such a success.


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