2019: The Beginning of the End of the Open Internet Era
Posted in: Governance at 07/01/2020 16:01
In the next decade, China will establish a separate root system for their share of the internet. This will mark the end of the global internet era. When the root splits, the United States and its allies should establish a coalition of democratic nations that would offer a stark choice and clear alternative to the Chinese internet governance model for the rest of the world.
At some point in the next decade, the Chinese government, with the support of Russia and other authoritarian regimes, will move forward with plans to establish a separate root system for their share of the internet. When the split happens, we will mark it as the end of the global internet era. When the history of that event is written, we will identify a series of seminal events in 2019 that were harbingers of what was to come.
Long a point of contention, control of the root, the top-level system for resolving requests for web addresses, has been hotly debated within internet governance circles. The Obama administration moved forward with long-stalled plans to devolve control of the root from the U.S. Department of Commerce to ICANN as an independent organization with the goal of placing the internet firmly in the hands of the private sector and out of the realm of great power politics (full disclosure: I had a hand in making that decision). For its part, ICANN has worked to placate the Chinese by establishing more instances of root servers in the country.