[AfrICANN-discuss] Internet Governance: Coin of the New Realm

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Thu Apr 26 09:59:34 SAST 2012

 Internet Governance: Coin of the New
By *Daniel Berninger* <http://www.circleid.com/members/2664/>

 The Aspen Institute released the IDEA Common Statement and
a do no harm Hippocratic Oath for Internet governance. The Aspen
describes the present moment as an inflection point for "the most robust
medium of information exchange in history". Reed Hundt outlined the risks
associated with Internet governance changes favored by China and a group of
developing nations through the ITU. Michael Joseph Gross frames this same
ITU dispute as World War
the May 2012 issue of Vanity Fair. The collision between the
Internet and national borders may prove World War 3.0 a literal description
of the forces in play. The Aspen report argues governance represents the
coin of this new realm.

A world where the availability of connectivity shapes prosperity does not
follow the same contours and constraints as the present Haves and Have-Nots
economic pyramid. This makes Aspen's do no harm principles problematic for
those benefiting from the economic status quo. The frictionless nature of
the Internet creates an existential threat to the relevance of borders and
by extension the wealth of gatekeepers. The enormous stakes promise a
Darwinian survival of the fittest battle between champions of connectivity
and disconnectivity splitting the world between these doctrines. The
resulting stalemate may prove unresolvable until one side or the other wins
economic hegemony as in the case of the Cold War.

The cost of moving a bit (1 or 0) from A to B or average-bit-cost (ABC)
benefits from the same Moore's Law of transistor density driving processing
power, memory, storage, and even megapixels. In 1980, AT&T charged $0.43
per minute for a "long distance" connection between 300 baud modems
connecting computers in Los Angeles and New York. The present reflects the
benefits of the 100 fold per decade reduction in ABC enabled by Moore's
Law. The assault on physical borders will continue to escalate with another
10,000 fold ABC reduction due by 2040. The profound nature of the conflict
reflects the fact coercion and communication anchor two ends of the human
interaction spectrum.

Borders will remain important everywhere there exists a threat of coercion,
but borders represent mere means to the end of prosperity. The motivations
listed in the preamble of the US Constitution "… establish Justice, insure
domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general
Welfare,..." represent universal aspirations. The Internet governance
debates provide an opportunity to test connectivity as a more potent source
of prosperity than the delegation of power to the gatekeepers of national
borders. The momentum presently favors the new Internet majority living in
the developing world as well as China, Russia, India, and Brazil. The
Internet freedom champions in America and Europe devolved into financial
turmoil during the same period over the last decade China cut the GDP gap
with the US from 8:1 to 2:1.

Internet partisans can point to the military cost of sustaining borders,
abuses of power by gatekeepers, and uneven access to the resulting
benefits. It nonetheless remains an open question how many of the 2 billion
people already connected will step up to defend the benefits of the
Internet. Threats to the Internet include both excessive and insufficient
regulation. History shows borderless anarchy yields a downward spiral into
horror conceding the landscape to strongman governance. The promise of the
Internet as an engine of innovation seems unlikely to survive the
interventionist regulatory model associated telephone networks championed
by the ITU.

Internet governance decisions may reorder the world order as much as the
world wars in the last century. Expanding connectivity creates wealth for
the same reasons as borders by facilitating cooperation in pursuit of a
common goal. The extent of cooperation reflects the extent communication
tools replicate the experience of connecting in-person. Continuous
improvement promises to make communication tools entirely substitutable for
meeting in-person over time, but this does not preclude a painful
transition. The 250 million lives lost to border disputes in the last
century makes defending the promise of the Internet an urgent matter for
this century.

*By Daniel Berninger <http://www.circleid.com/members/2664/>, Technology
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