WCIT and Online Business: Who Gets to Control the Internet?

This is a post by Jonathan Wright, whose expertise, perspective and honesty in online business development is simply unmatched.
The end of 2012 is packed full of world changing events. Consider that:
  • In November we will have elected a President here in the USA,
  • According to the Mayan and Hopi Calendars the world runs out of time on December 21, and 
  • December 3-14 the World conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) is meeting in Dubai to revisit the regulations governing the way international voice, data and video traffic is handled.
Diplomats from 193 countries will converge to renegotiate and include in this Act the regulations regarding the use and distribution (i.e., control) of the Internet.

Strangely, there is little media attention to this historic event. Okay, here in the USA we are mainly focused on the "fiscal cliff," which is keeping the media from focusing on WCIT. That's not good because the WCIT has far reaching implications for the continuation of the freedom we now enjoy online.

Up for debate are questions that will impact our lives in ways we can not currently fathom:
  • Who will control the Internet?
  • Who will decide what is allowed online and who can see it?
  • How will different countries with differing standards and beliefs control what their citizens can view and comment on?
  • Will each country run their own Internet or Intranet?
  • Will the Internet remain "free" both in terms of cost of use and cost of Freedom of Speech?
  • Will the Internet be broken up and segmented via corporations, Governments, faith-based organizations and those slippery hackers?
  • What are the standards of Internet security and how will we deal with international espionage and copyright infringement?
  • Will the Internet be taxed?
  • How will we pay for Internet oversight and security?
And the list goes on and on.

The Major players have all pretty much weighed in - and with each opinion comes a dissenting opinion. Then, with each dissenting opinion comes threats from law enforcement and hackers. The drama continues to crescendo and those of us watching are simply left waiting on the edge of our seats to watch the full performance unfold.

According to Author Michael Joseph Gross, who wrote the article "WAR 3.0" for Vanity Fair, the battle will take place on four main fronts:
  1. Sovereignty - Who gets to control the Internet - which has no geographic or national boundaries? Should governments be able to decide what you can and cannot see or access or should a Non-Government Agency, free of national dogma and policy, be put in charge? In which case, who gets to take part in that Agency?
  2. Piracy and Intellectual Property/Copyright Control - How do you police free information?
  3. Privacy - Anonymous postings allow greater freedom of speech - free from tyranny - but it also allows for criminal behavior. Despite the fact that users think they're anonymous, most of what they do and where they go online is tracked and can be traced to real world identities.
  4. Security - How do you keep anyone - whether a government or a private institution - from tracking your key strokes, hacking your systems, diverting web traffic or stealing your credit card and personal information?
During the uprisings in Egypt and Syria we saw how effective the Internet can be to spread your message worldwide and for minute-by-minute updates on world affairs or the affairs of your loved ones a world away.

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook we had total exposure to everything that happened as it happened. Clearly, many governments and militaries see this as problematic.

In contrast, proponents of Free Speech see it as the "right" way to use the Internet to expose worldwide abuses of power. Families see it as a way to track and maintain communication during emergencies.

So who gets to decide what you can and cannot do online?

Governments try to control the internet by blocking domain addresses or creating their own Intranets for their countries that don't allow users access out of their little domain.

Most hackers just giggle at this since they can break down those barriers as fast as they are put up. Time and again hacker organizations like Anonymous have proven the fragility of even the strongest security walls and encryption software.

One final thing that will definitely be on the table in Dubai will be taxation.

Will we tax access to the Internet, access to email or a per email or per click tax?

Proponents like China and Russia take the position that it will help build a stronger international security division and assist in building Internet infrastructures in developing countries. Western countries have taken the position that it will hurt the use and development of what, up until now, has been a free service (clearly none of these people have seen my Comcast or AT&T bill) and see it as a deterrent to future pioneering of the Web.

Funny that the Mayan End of Time happens a week after this Summit meeting. How we expect 193 countries to figure out the answers to these deep and far reaching questions in 12 days is almost laughable. The only thing I think will be more humorous is to watch them try to implement whatever decisions they make against Hackers and Cyber-Terrorists.

Information wants to be Free. Settle in with me and watch the live feed on the WCIT. I promise it will be more engaging that our Presidential Debates. And honestly...it will be more important.
WCIT Website - with loads and loads of information and background data

Vanity Fair Magazine - WAR 3.0

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