ABSTRACT: The Internet has united the world as never before. But is it in danger of breaking apart? Cybersecurity, geopolitical tensions, and calls for data sovereignty have led to claims that the Internet is fragmenting. Milton Mueller argues, however, that the network effects of global compatibility are so powerful that they will continue to defeat any technical fracturing of the Net. The real issue is the attempt by governments to stop information flows at their borders, yielding a power struggle over the future of national sovereignty in the digital world. It pits global markets against the territorial designs of government. Will the Internet Fragment? argues that the conflict should be resolved by moving away from national sovereignty and towards popular sovereignty in cyberspace.
Tullock Lecture addressed challenges facing the changing internet
The internet has evolved to deliver a huge increase in connectedness – a person logging on in Timbuktu can quickly find, and easily communicate with, someone with a common interest in Des Moines, Tokyo, or Seville. That’s the idea, anyway. But many pundits and policymakers say the friendly and efficient ecosystem is under siege. Their concern: fragmentation. If the internet splinters into tiny slivers, with barriers between them, the efficiency of the information superhighway may be lost.
Milton Mueller, an international expert on the subject of internet governance, attacks this hot topic in his Tullock Lecture at Clemson University, on Monday, April 24.
Mueller, professor of public policy at Georgia Tech and author of “Will the Internet Fragment?: Sovereignty, Globalization and Cyberspace” (Wiley, 2017), spoke in Lowry Hall, Room 100, from 5-6:30 p.m.
Mueller argued the threats of geopolitical and cybersecurity issues fragmenting the internet aren’t nearly as concerning as governments’ attempts to block information flows for political reasons. He said the network effects of global compatibility are powerful enough to defeat a technical fracturing of the web. However, a power struggle may loom over the future of national sovereignty in the digital world.
The Tullock Lecture series is sponsored by the Information Economy Project (IEP), housed in the John E. Walker Department of Economics at Clemson University. Refreshments and informal discussion followed the lecture.