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A few parallel Internets

A few months ago I had written a column on the "ownership" of the Internet. The issue is becoming active once again, writes Puneet Mehrotra.

business Updated: Mar 31, 2006 12:49 IST

A few months ago I had written a column on the "ownership" of the Internet. The issue is becoming active once again.  People's Daily, regarded as the most influential newspaper in China, published an article announcing changes to the country's domain name system. China's moves to create its own domain system (a possible prelude to a new, country-specific, alternate root system). There was also buzz that Google might be looking to create its own Internet.

The current system

So far we all have enjoyed a 'one Internet' for all. The entire world under one umbrella. The ownership issue of Internet has cropped up from time to time but so far no country has tried to break away from it.  But in the future can we expect parallel internets for different countries, corporate, political interests? But before that let's look at the current ownership of the Internet.

The current ownership of the Internet

So who is the current owner of the Internet?

In theory, the internet is owned by everyone that uses it. Yet, in reality, certain entities exert more influence over the "mechanics" and regulation of the internet than others. There are organizations that oversee and standardize what happens on the Internet and assign IP addresses and domain names, such as the National Science Foundation, the Internet Engineering Task Force, ICANN, InterNIC and the Internet Architecture Board.

There are many organisations, corporations, governments, schools, private citizens and service providers that all own pieces of the infrastructure, but there is no one body that owns it all.   Yet organizations such as such as the National Science Foundation, the Internet Engineering Task Force, ICANN, InterNIC and the Internet Architecture Board are organizations created and largely controlled by US

The world of parallel Internets

The global Internet maintained by ICANN and ultimately controlled by the U.S. government is available to all. The US is a dominant power technologically and culturally over the Internet and even rightly so some may argue, after all the Internet is a US creation. But the fact is there are totalitarian regimes that don't like the idea of western influences thrust upon them. According to Jon Christian Ryter of Washington Times, "They want the ability to create to create impenetrable cyberwalls around their countries to prevent western demagogues from brainwashing their "subjects" with inflammatory, indoctrinational ideological propaganda that will incite them against their masters."


Molly Wood in Cnet wrote a very interesting article with reference to parallel internets. cnet.com

The future of the Internet

Molly gives a very interesting example "Imagine if you couldn't call someone's mobile phone unless they were on the same network as you. Suddenly, you'd have that problem with e-mail, with link-sharing, with instant messaging"

So in other words VoIP, email, chat, even website viewing may all depend on interoperability issues. In other words the power of internet transferred from users to corporations, countries and dictatorial regimes. That's a scary thought to even think about for an average user like you and me. But that's what many countries and corporations have been thinking of giving shape to.  There hasn't been any action so far. But the thought is there. Sad but true. I stand for a universal internet, a common internet the way it is now. What about you?

Puneet Mehrotra is a web strategist at www.cyberzest.com and edits www.thebusinessedition.com you can email him on puneet@cyberzest.com