‘Innocence Lost’ Trends Issue – The End of Network Neutrality and a Battle for the Control of the Internet

The principle known as ‘Network Neutrality’ allows Internet users to access any web content or applications they choose, without restriction or limitation…


In 1990, John Perry Barlow, along  with Mitchell Kapor, wrote a beautiful piece about the Internet in “Across the Electronic Frontier”

A quote…
‘Over the  last  fifty  years, the  people  of  the developed  world  have  begun to cross into a landscape  unlike  any  which  humanity  has experienced  before.  It  is a region  without  physical  shape  or  form…what  it  is  eventually  called,  it  is  the  homeland  of  the  Information Age,  the  place  where  the  future  is  destined  to  dwell…’       

There are many conceptualizations of the internet from ‘Ecommerce’, to ‘information highway’, to ‘social network’, to ‘cultural sound bite’, to ‘political governance and control’, to a massive collective – “the Borg”, if you will. The internet has become the transformational driver it was destined to become. It has and will further enhance all aspects of our lives, and as its importance continues to grow, so too will the war over control escalate into a fundamental battle of who and  what values will dominate, in what region. The nationalization/regionalization of the internet has already begun, as has a drift effect. Much like a slow moving creek that has been enlarged into a fast flowing river, the local growth and values have been watered down and washed away; and to continue the analogy, much of what we do now is a matter of going along with the flow. Who would have thought after the Korean war, that some American companies in the future  would be providing the Chinese government, the tools for controlling/ monitoring it’s population through the internet. China with 420 million users is by far the largest internet  market by population, although it is the industrialized countries that have the greatest percentage of users.

The internet has simultaneously become a method for both the powerless and powerful to influence the other, and the internet is destined to become a multilevel system. The American system is already developing a ‘secure’ level for commerce and important social and governmental functions. The most current example of this battle is the website Wikileaks, which has been at the top of most internet searches in recent weeks. A media storm has brewed thoughts and analysis in both defending and finding offence in what information has been released and why. In a balance between oneness and secrecy, democracy functions and flourishes. Heather Mallick wrote an article in the Toronto Star (6/12/2010) that spoke of the problems with anonymity and the internet, and endorsed the role of Wikileaks as being the opposite of anonymity, which perhaps is a little simplistic, considering how it gathers information. A battle is ensuing over who decides and why this balance is swung, one way or the other. The battle between Google and the Chinese government recently, is another event emblematic of this growing tension. Internet wars between countries have been readied, and espionage has taken a turn for the technical, but sadly nothing that ‘Q’ could have helped with. ‘Cyberbullying’ and ‘hackers’ have begun to be part of our lexicon, in the battle for the control of the internet, and by extension, our society. The darker side of a cultural phenomenon. To be sure, the term ‘cyberterrorism’ is not far behind. The questions for us to answer include how to safeguard this vital connection without losing the all of the ideals and idealists who built and developed this future technology in which we will live.


This is the internet’s age of a loss of innocence. Long gone are the words of John Perry Barlow,  as he wrote in 1996 in his treatise “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”…

‘…I declare the global space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any method of enforcement we have true reason to fear…’