I was very interested to read an article in this week’s Washington Post about Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s belief that China will one day take action to break off its part of the Internet from the rest of the world. Schmidt believes that if China takes this step, then other countries and regions will be encouraged to follow suit. The result will be a fragmented Internet that is no longer a unified global system.
I found Schmidt’s assertions particularly interesting because they echo an interview that I conducted in 2008 with Internet pioneer Vint Cerf while we were doing research for our upcoming book Names, Numbers, and Network Solutions. At the time, Vint was concerned that the Internet could fragment as governments struggled to assert control over the Internet within their borders. It appears that Vint’s prediction may very well come true, and this development concerns me.
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I also read an article about the recent FCC proposal to create nationwide super WiFi networks. The networks would be very powerful and they would be provided to the public free of charge.
While the proposal has gained much support from companies that would directly benefit from increased Internet use, including Google and Microsoft, I am not surprised that the wireless industry, which makes billions of dollars each year in Internet access fees, is up in arms and is trying to kill the proposal. Although I am no fan of increased government spending, I do believe that this proposal has merit.