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We Urgently Need a New Internet

Paul Budde

Let's be honest about it. Nobody — including those very clever people that were present at its birth — had the slightest idea what impact the internet would have in only a few decades after its invention.

The internet has now penetrated every single element of our society and of our economy, and if we look at how complex, varied and historically different our societies are, it is no wonder that we are running into serious problems with the current version of our internet.

There are some very serious threats to the internet, the key ones being:

  • Cyber-terror and cyber-war
  • Cyber-crime
  • Political (government) interference (Russian and Chinese hackers, Prism, Stuxnet, etc)
  • Privacy intrusion (governments, Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc)

So far the reaction to all of this has been to create draconian regulations which will never be successful, because the internet was never designed to cope with such complexities.

The internet is now so critical to our society that we can't afford to lose it and so we are beginning to accept the breaches, hacks and interferences, because the need to use it is greater than the concerns we have in relation to the above-mentioned activities. This is creating very dangerous situations politically, socially and economically.

We have been somewhat sheltered by the fact that over the last half century — in western democracies — we have had good institutions, both private and public, which in general terms have been addressing these negative outcomes with the good of all in mind.

While this is in general still the case, it is not too difficult to see that populist regimes might have other ideas about what defines the 'public good' and that they will want to use the internet for their own purposes.

On the other hand, we see the more responsible governments increasingly being forced to intervene and regulate, as they are unable to get on top of the above-mentioned issues. We know this is futile but they feel they have no other option.

Rather than following this path, it would be much better to address the underlying technology issues of the internet. There is no way that we can avoid terrorists, criminals, and disruptive populist factions who will always look for ways to misuse the internet; but we can make the internet much safer than it is now.

Unfortunately however, the current internet cannot be fixed. So we need a new one.

My colleague Martin Geddes has written an excellent article on why the old net is broken and why it can't be fixed.

It is not going to be easy to resolve this. It basically means that, bit by bit, the old internet will need to be replaced by a new one. The good thing is that the engineers involved in both the old and the new internet know what this new internet should look like — in some places this (industrial) internet infrastructure already exists.

What is needed is the commercial and political will to start working on replacing the old with the new.

Based on Martin's article, a group of my colleagues have started a discussion on this topic. I am a firm believer that our industry will need to drive this new development; we will have to create further awareness of the problem and at the same point the way forward.

There is widespread support for looking at RINA for both the strategic and the technological guidance that is needed. There is a good description of RINA on Wikipedia — the following is only the introduction to it:

RINA stands for Recursive InterNetwork Architecture and is a computer network architecture that unifies distributed computing and telecommunications. RINA's fundamental principle is that computer networking is just Inter-Process Communication or IPC. RINA reconstructs the overall structure of the Internet, forming a model that comprises a single repeating layer, the DIF (Distributed IPC Facility), which is the minimal set of components required to allow distributed IPC between application processes. RINA inherently supports mobility, multi-homing and Quality of Service without the need for extra mechanisms, provides a secure and programmable environment, motivates for a more competitive marketplace, and allows for a seamless adoption.

As mentioned, I firmly believe that our industry has a vital responsibility to show leadership and ensure that our societies and economies get a better and safer internet than the version (Martin calls it a prototype) that we have now. The industry is starting this discussion which will hopefully lead to a safer internet for all.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication. Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

Related topics: Cyberattack, Cybercrime, Cybersecurity, Internet of Things, Privacy, Telecom, Web


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What about domain names? Jean Guillon  –  Feb 16, 2017 9:04 AM PDT

It is interesting as this is the second post of the week about the subject but none mentions domain names: what about phishing, trademark infringement, squatting?

Hi Jean,When you start looking at a Paul Budde  –  Feb 16, 2017 3:57 PM PDT

Hi Jean,

When you start looking at a new internet all of these issues will need to be taken into account. However, you will first need to start with the overarching design of making it more safe, secure and robust from there on all of those issues will fall into place.



Angela Merkel Jean Guillon  –  Feb 17, 2017 12:31 AM PDT

Just for info, this is an article from the BBC where Angela Merkel expressed a need for an European network. She said this in 2014: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26210053.

Let's make sure that all of these Paul Budde  –  Feb 17, 2017 2:47 AM PDT

Let's make sure that all of these positive actions will lead to a safe new internet for all and that we don't get an internet that splinters away

Issue Jean Guillon  –  Feb 17, 2017 3:04 AM PDT

There are two things to consider here I believe:
One is to repair the existing and the other is the alternative to create other roots (let's say "other versions of Internet").

Many instances have been working for the past 20 years trying to repair but we still have fraud, spam, phishing… I don't believe that this can change anymore: service providers have more to win if things don't change. Who wants more regulations for domain names for example: law firms and IP specialists? Certainly not :-)

I think starting from scratch again makes more sense for a version 2. Users decide anyway and if that place is a better one… As a professional, I don't necessary look for a more secure place on Internet but a place where "what is there" is not half fake.

In regards to spam, I personally don't see a problem in being identified to be allowed to send an email: this is a solution so spam. I don't understand why it is still not possible to be identified with a passport number online.

Good points Jean, we are in agreement. Paul Budde  –  Feb 17, 2017 4:08 AM PDT

Good points Jean, we are in agreement.

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