Internet or Splinternet? by Joseph S. Nye, Jr., a former US assistant secretary of defense and chairman of the US National Intelligence Council, is University Professor at Harvard University

Posted in: Governance at 11/08/2016 15:04

Who owns the Internet? The answer is no one and everyone. The Internet is a network of networks. Each of the separate networks belongs to different companies and organizations, and they rely on physical servers in different countries with varying laws and regulations. But without some common rules and norms, these networks cannot be linked effectively. Fragmentation - meaning the end of the Internet - is a real threat.

Some estimates put the Internet's economic contribution to global GDP as high as $4.2 trillion in 2016. A fragmented "splinternet" would be very costly to the world, but that is one of the possible futures outlined last month in the report of the Global Commission on Internet Governance, chaired by former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt. The Internet now connects nearly half the world's population, and another billion people - as well as some 20 billion devices - are forecast to be connected in the next five years.

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