In terms of Internet governance, I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel if authority over standards were voted on amongst other countries. I think that the Internet, as we are used to it, takes on a very American sensibility in terms of its openness and our propensity to air information on the side of “free” versus “restricted.” A lot of countries don’t share our beliefs about communication being as least restricted as possible, and to take on input about Internet usage standards and norms from these countries completely flies in the face of net neutrality.
Don’t get me wrong – I think that the IGF, ICANN and WSIS are great organizations, and I feel that the Internet does need some guidance. But dictating bandwidth allocation or information flows or contra flows can only be damaging for a truly “global” society.
But can we govern the Internet entirely? In regards to things like piracy, or circumventing a state-instituted firewall (think Green Revolution), can it ever be stopped? The beauty about the Internet, and the way that we share information over the Internet, is its current standardization across the globe. During undergrad, I did my studies in journalism and information sciences and technology. And I had to view this more times than I can actually count for the latter degree.
It’s the Open Systems Interconnection model, and it’s an abstraction of how the Internet operates.
At the most basic level, the data that we’re sending and receiving from websites happens at the fourth layer, the transport layer. Your machine transmits a signal to a server of _______ website, and it sends you a signal back. But with things like piracy, and specifically bit torrents, where you are making a peer-to-many connection, you are circumventing the need to download from a specific, singular “host,” or server. Your computer is grabbing small “bits” from many sources and piecing it together in such a way that it creates a whole. You can also create filters within your own network to prevent your computer from communicating with certain TCP/IP addresses that are known to belong to corporate or industry servers (think MPAA or RIAA).
I didn’t do this to provide you with a lesson in effective piracy, I was merely trying to illustrate a point. No matter what structure the Internet takes on, there are always ways to get around obstacles. And the standards that currently exist for the Internet didn’t just appear overnight. I think it would take a tremendous amount of time and resources to come up with an alternative that created new standards.
I have always been a huge advocate for net neutrality, and think that the beauty of the Internet is because it is designed in such a way. I think that the way the Internet currently operates is fine, and that nation-states should have an Internet that reflects the rest of its respective communication policy. Although, I would still advocate for an Internet that is more open, even within regimes where other forms of communication are restricted.