We are the internet – so take back the internet!

December 22nd, 2006 | by ian |

Bob Frankston hits the “network neutrality” nail squarely on the head in his article “Our Internet!

We are the Internet…We don’t need be given “Internet” by a central authority because the defining principle is that we can and must connect from the edge rather than relying on carrier be it a Telco or “Internet Inc”…It’s time we took control over our local transport – just as we own the wires in our homes and the roads in our communities we must also own our local information transports.

We must not tolerate being forced to buy services from providers that have a stranglehold on our wires – whether they are physical wires or radios. Today our ability to communicate is limited by the unenlightened business needs of the carriers. This is intolerable and inexcusable.

The situation is tolerated because it seems obvious that we need someone to govern and operate the Internet.

We don’t. The expedient compromises that define today’s Internet are not necessary. We do not need an organization to hand out identifiers. we do need not an omniscient network operator to keep track of all the local networks and relationships. Most of all, we do not need a centralized directory to assign names.

What Bob describes is the principle behind the inherent freedom of the internet, and the reason why “network neutrality” is so important to the continued evolution of the internet. Since the internet is emergent from the interaction of its endpoints, there is no need for centralized control, which is in fact antithetical to the very existence of the internet. The internet would simply not exist if control was centralized.

Freedom from the Internet…If the Internet itself arises from taking control ourselves outside the network then we needn’t be dependent upon Internet Inc!

This is not at all theory. It’s practiced every day in the P2P world. P2P is really just a rediscovery of the basic End-to-End principle of the Internet. Unfortunately that’s often confused with Womb-to-Tomb because it’s hard for people to understand how you can make promises without having full control of every element of the network. The Internet isn’t a network like the phone network – it’s just a word we use for what happens when those with nothin’ to lose and everything to gain get together. They form their own communities.

I believe strongly that if the internet as we know it becomes overly constrained by commercial interests, the forces that created it will have no avenue other than to create a new internet. Perhaps the newcomer will be akin to the “Metaverse” in Snow Crash.

I’m not sure how we will take back the ‘net but P2P overlay networks seem to be part of the answer, you can tell they get it right because they scare the hell out of the telcos. Skype is a great example of a network build on top of a network. Web services could create another similar layer. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out.

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