Just a week ago, a United Nations announcement that a governments-only working group would be considering changes to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), raked up quite a bit of controversy, internationally.
The call for setting up an Internet policing body comprising UN member states came from Brazil while representatives from countries including China and India were reportedly in support of such a move.
For India as the world’s largest democracy to stand against the development of a free Internet is ironic. But for a country aspiring to swell its broadband subscriber base from a paltry 10 million plus in 2010 to a whopping 160 million in 2014, it can be detrimental.
From a users’ standpoint, regulation of the Internet by an inter-government super body could be anything but welcome.
Experts have noted that such a regulation, obviously due to its framework requirements, could slow “changes in the architecture of the Internet” or “the adoption of technology,” among various other fallouts. These would lead to a de-acceleration of the growth and spread of the Internet to new geographies and users.
Also, Internet Society, a non-profit organisation that focuses on Internet standards, education, and policy reportedly intends to argue before the UN that the “intelligence” of the Internet is “predominantly at the edges, with the users…”
That’s the truth, indeed! The Web 2.0 era has further established that users’ role in the development and growth of the Internet would be foremost. And what draws user communities to the vast fold of the Internet? Well, the very notion of Net neutrality and the associated belief that the Internet is a media free of governmental gags, most certainly creates a strong pull, among various such other factors.
Policing of the Internet through an inter-governmental framework could potentially dull the Internet and therefore make it less attractive to existing as well as potential new users.
Countries like India, which are being seen as emerging global economies, will perhaps lose more and gain less from a gagged Internet that has a lesser sheen. This will act against the spirit of exponentially expanding India’s Internet and broadband subscriber base over the next five years.
Worse, policing of the Internet at an inter-government level could result into a fragmentation of the Internet by geographies. In other words, the Internet of the future could potentially mirror the state of a political world order, with even boundaries defined…why not?
In the existing Internet framework, a user is the citizen of a given country and is also a neitzen of the ‘global village.’ A government order could potentially make the very concept of global village meaningless and strip users of their netizen status.
The role of the free Internet in informing and empowering consumers in India has been phenomenal. Why should we then attempt to make the Internet any less free?
A more meaningful [UN] resolution could be to make the Internet a neutral zone, such that no government or government agency uses or abuses it against another member country. Such a move would exemplify a more constructive contribution of democratic countries towards the development of the Internet.
(As published in Deccan Chronicle, December 23, 2010.)
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