So says Tim Wu, whose new book, The Master Switch, was released yesterday.

He poses the argument that the Internet now runs the risk of political censorship – as seen in Libya and Egypt, and in the American reaction to WikiLeaks – but also commercial censorship.

“The internet is about 15 years into its cycle as an open medium,” says Wu, “and at that moment in their cycle, most open media tend to turn to closed media.”

I would agree that to some extent this has been true for a very long time, yet not for the same reasons one might suppose.

We presume when we call it “The Internet”, because in truth it is closer to what Tim Berners-Lee called a World-Wide-Web.

“The” Internet is in-fact a series of independent intra-networks and extra-networks interconnected at their edges in order to allow communication and commerce to flow globally.

Some of those intranets are, and always have been private commercial and industrial networks, while others are government owned. Public and academic institutions own still others.

The glue that connects it all are the telecommunications companies extranets that provide the backbone those intranets connect to, in a web-like layered construct that has become more and more complex and inter-dependent over the years.

New services like teleconferencing, VOIP (Voice-Over-IP) and others have been shoehorned into the overall architecture, as have access methodologies like Wireless and WiFi, to the point where the entire model can be destabilised far more easily than had ever been anticipated.

We are rapidly approaching the necessity of a re-design of that infrastructure, and in-fact discussions and planning toward that re-design have been going on for a number of years… a cumbersome, complex process affected by the self-serving natures of the components of the whole great beast.

I think that what is more likely to be approaching in the shorter term is, if you will, a re-boot of the “Internet” back into it’s disparate network form… which his to say multiple backbones that handle different layers of services to different levels of consumers; government, commercial, industrial, scientific and public.

Where the new edges will be, what levels of access will still be free, and what services will become pay-to-play remain to be determined. How soon this will happen depends largely on the willingness and ability of agencies like the FCC and their International counterparts to stand-up to political interference like the recent Republican vote in the US House of Representatives to revoke the recent net-neutrality legislation.

So yes, change is coming, but what that change will be is up to us.

Tell the politicians and petty dictators to go stuff their self-serving ideology and greed up their pipe… and smoke it.

 

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