Will the internet end up controlled by big business and politicians? Its birth heralded a new age of intellectual freedom. Now the internet is under seige

It’s all about control. Of course, nobody uses that particular term. The talk is always about “governance” or “regulation”, but really it’s about control. Ever since the internet burst into public consciousness in 1993, the big question has been whether the most disruptive communications technology since print would be captured by the established power structures – nation states and giant corporations – that dominate our world and shape its development. And since then, virtually every newsworthy event in the evolution of the network has really just been another skirmish in the ongoing war to control the internet.This year closed with two such skirmishes. In Dubai, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a venerable UN body employing nice-but-politically-dim engineers and run by international bureaucrats of average incompetence, staged the grandly named World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12).The ostensible purpose of the meeting was to do what the ITU routinely does: update the regulations that harmonise international telecommunications – stuff such as dialling codes, mobile roaming charges and the like.

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