This high level summit is being attended by various government representatives as well as Internet heavyweights like Google's Eric Schmidt, Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales. In the open day keynote French President Nicolas Sarkozy made clear the intent of the assembled governments to bring the Internet under government control. Sarkozy told the assembled Internet reps:
"You can't be exempt from minimum rules, which shouldn't damp your development though," he said. "Do not forget that it is in the commitment of your companies to contribute fairly to national ecosystems that the sincerity of your promise will be assessed."I add the bold because that I believe that highlights the main sticking point, the thing that goes to the heart of the matter and it has to do with how governments view the Internet.
From the beginning the Internet knew no national boundaries. To be sure there were very strong language, technical and cultural biases but no tariffs or special borders. And while it still helps to be English speaking and Western educated much has been done to mitigate those requirements.
Now governments want to control the Internet, especially now that the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt show how valuable a free Internet can be in overthrowing a government and how hard it is, as matters now stand, for the various governments to lock down their people's Internet access. Governments of all stripes dislike being over thrown.
So these moves are entirely predictable and I ask the reader to view policy statements at this e-G8 conference in the same light that I discussed the renewed offensive initiated against the free Internet by the US govt last week.
Just be aware that they are moving rather quickly now to lock down the Internet so we better hurry up and use this tool to organize our opposition while we still have it to use.
According to CNET, Google cautioned against a lot of new government regulations:
"You want to tread lightly on regulation in brand new industries," Schmidt said. "There is a tendency incumbents will block new things, [but] the Internet is a remarkably resilient and creative place. Clearly you need some level of regulation for the evil stuff, but I would be careful."
Although Google often takes the anti-regulatory stance so common in industry, it did advocate Net neutrality--the idea that some regulation was appropriate to ensure the big incumbent players on the Internet can't give their own traffic priority access on the network. Google backed off its stance with a compromise proposal that argued wireless data providers, struggling with heavily overburdened networks, should be able to decide on their own which data gets priority.
The Internet belongs to neither companies nor countries. I think Googler Vic Gundotra got it right and the Google I/O conference earlier this month when he said:
"It's a platform that's owned by none of us, so it's the only platform that truly belongs to all of us."
We must make sure that does not change.