The roiling debate on Internet governance in a post-Snowden world is not one that we participate in fully. There are only so many hours in a day. But this debate caught my eye. Someone systematically engaging Richard Hill, the theorist behind the ITU’s position at WCIT 2013.
It seems to me that what most bothers the statists is that the Internet has broken up the tight controls that states used to be able to exercise over thought, expression, and access to information. I could be wrong. It might be simply a matter of distaste for the United States and its commerce-driven governmental system.
Those of us who lived in the days of tightly-controlled telecommunications and broadcasting structures, such as characterized the 20th century, have welcomed the bracing possibilities of the Internet, which has linked computers, and the human beings empowered by them, more effectively than treaty-based obligations ever could. It is important not to romanticize the Internet, but it is more important to get the big picture right. The tightly controlled signals transport system of the 20th century was shattered by the Internet. It is still possible to achieve police state goals through communications, if that is your country’s desire, but it has become a lot harder.
If Mr. Hill could achieve his desire of taking us back to the ITU world, the carrier-monopoly world, we would experience something like a Counter-Reformation, and the closing of human possibilities from a different direction than unbridled commerce. Personally I do not want to go there, and most of the liberal market societies of this world do not either. Nor do I want unbridled private sector monopolies of distribution or of applications. There is a role for governments in this, and they already have the powers they need to control monopolies and market power.