Like many, I am a big fan of the Internet. As a computer professional in a past life, I saw the growth of the Internet from non existent to phenomenal in a relatively short period of time, such that the most humble and ignorant among us can access it in much the same way we can switch on the television and watch TV programs. The advance of digital computer technology, varied fast and cheap communications where distance is no barrier, cheap personal computers and online access software (ironically fuelled by the commercial possibilities for the pornography and gaming industries) have all made it possible. And now as I type, I can set up a new window on my PC and with a few clicks on my key board or mouse potentially access all the knowledge of the world – wow!
Most take for granted what a few years ago was an impossible dream. I did not realize until yesterday that control of the Internet e.g. via domain names was done in the USA and it was seen as a service to make the world a freer and more accessible place (knowledge wise), and all that is about to change if critics like Franklin Graham is to be believed – “On October 1 President Obama is planning to turn over control of key components of the Internet to an international group—and Congress is standing by, letting it happen! As this Washington Times article points out—”why are congressional leaders not screaming bloody murder about yet another executive overreach?” America invented the Internet. The whole world relies on it. U.S. taxpayers paid for its creation. It is a national treasure of strategic importance and our politicians have no right giving one of the most powerful tools in the world to anyone else. This is a huge mistake, and once the “keys” are given away, there will be no way to get them back”.
Ironically, I turned to the Internet to find out more (which these days has become my custom). My first relevant hit, a report by an admittedly biased journal, declared: “October 1 is D-Day for the start of the international takeover of the Internet, a scheme the Obama administration and the United Nations have been advancing for years. Why are GOP leaders AWOL as President Obama and the United Nations move to transfer critically important jurisdiction over the Internet to an unaccountable UN-aligned monopoly? Why are Ryan and McConnell doing nothing? On October 1 — which is only hours away — U.S. oversight of the Internet’s domain name system is scheduled to be stripped from the U.S. and transferred to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) designed by global “multistakeholder” activists. Members of Congress, national security experts, military professionals, constitutional authorities, privacy advocates, and human rights activists are warning that this pending transition to “independent” oversight by “the international community” is fraught with danger”.
Many of the other reports on what is happening is just as alarmed and critical of this decision (as is Donald Trump). Even the more circumspect Guardian in its report “Quietly, symbolically, US control of the internet was just ended” points out that now the US has relinquished control, others that do not subscribe to American freedom ideals now have the power to affectively curb access to information. How much things will change and to what extent are the concerns raised uncalled for, I have yet to fully work out. The ideal of giving control to an International body (something that has long existed when controlling communication protocols – something I discovered in my dealing with Telex days) on the face of it seems reasonable and the thought that a powerful nation should be able to control it seems unreasonable. The Guardian report concludes: “Will the internet work any differently? All being well: no. Domain names will go on resolving. Internet protocol numbers will be distributed (IPv6 ones, anyway) And internet protocol parameters will … do whatever it is they do. And can a multi-stakeholder system of lobbyists, geeks and idealists (but mostly lobbyists) really run a complex technical ecosystem the world relies on? Icann’s board says that just having come up with the plan is “a true demonstration of the strength and triumph of the multi-stakeholder model”. Time will tell”.
Like so much of what I post on my blog these days is in the spirit of raising matters people should be aware of and aren’t, and if I don’t, who will? While I may be accused of being alarmist etc., I am more keen that people know the truth and act appropriately. The Internet is neutral as most technology is. It no doubt has helped create all sorts of social ills which may not have otherwise happened. But is potential for communicating information, especially for those with no other means of access, is enormous. For me, it is a fantastic weapon in the armory to fight injustice – anywhere! It is a resource that needs protection against those with more sinister agendas.