A noted writer on technology who was quite supportive of our stand against efforts to assert strong national controls over the Internet through resolutions approved at the WCIT 2012, tagged me on a tweet about this alarmist piece about the Sri Lanka government’s MOU with Google to test Loon over Lanka that included the para below:
The real effects of this deal will be seen after Sri Lanka’s citizens have tasted universal Internet access: how can Sri Lanka’s political parties be expected to formulate and push through strict legislation on issues such as local data storage, privacy and search engine neutrality when the party that will be affected the most (Google) is the one responsible for the country’s Internet coverage? While there may be no outright arm-twisting – which is not Silicon Valley’s style – Sri Lanka’s legislators will undoubtedly think twice before coming out with legislation that would require Internet companies to retain Sri Lankan data on Sri Lankan soil; a controversial notion that has seen countries such as Brazil flip-flop in the face of intense lobbying.
It’s possible that my friend did not read to the end, but simply thinking that he would outsource the response to this piece to me. But then others, who are even more anchored in the civil-rights approach to ICTs and everything retweeted this which suggests that they endorse this piece.
I am no fan of outmoded notions of national sovereignty. A fragmented Internet where local data storage is mandatory not the kind of Internet I prefer. Been in China, seen how Internet works there. So I have no sympathy whatsoever with people who want to empower “Sri Lanka’s political parties be expected to formulate and push through strict legislation on issues such as local data storage.”
It seems that people are looking for reasons to object to Loon. But why? No one is upset when another submarine cable lands on our shores. Why object to some other way of moving our data into the Internet cloud?
If Sri Lanka were to rip out the existing cables and become solely dependent on Loon, there could be a concern. But as far as I know, there is no such intention. We know from our research that it is critical to bring down domestic and international backhaul costs if we are to connect more of our people to the Internet. What’s wrong with looking at options other than fiber optic cables?