Changing The Internet

posted by on 15th September 2010, at 1:45am

The Internet, the thing you’re using to read this right now, has had a long history. The Internet we know and use didn’t become popularized until the 1990s. Prior to that the Internet was a military and educational system. The US decided it was necessary to create a network to ensure communications stayed stable, in case the Cold War turned hot. Starting in the late 1960s, two computers were connected to what was called ARPANET (Advanced research Projects Agency Network). ARPANET was created by a joint venture between MIT and DARPA (A section of the United States Department of Defense). This means of course that the original Internet was not intended for civilian use.

In the early 1990s, the first public web browser “Mosaic” was created. This started the series of events that lead to the Internet that we know today, including but not limited to the original dot com boom (Web 1.0) which saw websites like Amazon and Ebay take off. During this time, Internet access became widespread and high speed broadband connections starting at 1.5Mbps (if you were lucky) replaced the slow dial up Internet. Web 2.0 arrived in 2004, using these high speed connections. Web 2.0 brought us websites such as Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Websites like these have changed the way we use the Internet; this begs the question: is this 40 year old architecture still decent?

Earlier this month Apple announced a revamped Apple TV. This Apple TV will operate solely on a rental model, meaning that content must be streamed from the iTunes store to your TV. The same can also be said for other services such as Hulu and YouTube to a certain extent; streaming video is an easy way for consumers to access what they want right away. The problem with this is that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have monthly caps on bandwidth, and streaming videos take up a lot of bandwidth. Caps are not the only issue, the bigger issue that takes place primarily in the US and eastern Canada is packet shaping. Packet shaping is the process in which an ISP prioritizes certain packets over another. The solution to this problem is net neutrality.

Net Neutrality is the name for the legislation being circulated that suggests that each packet be treated equally. Most of you reading this will be from the US, the problem with a US based net neutrality solution is that it’s made by the US. The Internet is a global network, not just confined to the US. Any net neutrality legislation should follow a set template agreed upon by an international committee. Granted, this would limit ISP’s as a business. However, the new model for an ISP must be that of a provider of electricity, gas, or water: simply providing infrastructure, and not controlling how the consumer uses the utility. Perhaps to spur the change in policy an ISP that complies with this legislation on their own tax rebates could be offered to the ISPs.

Net Neutrality isn’t the only problem, there’s also the problem of law. The Internet was not designed for the entire planet to use. As of right now, there are no laws on the Internet except for critical issues such as child pornography, piracy, and terrorism. The Internet needs to be policed more than it is policed now. If a person verbally attacks someone in the real world charges can be filed; it’s a lot harder to do that online. On the same page, websites such as 4chan need to be prevented from preaching hate. There needs to be laws to prevent 4chan from attacking individuals or “hacking” websites. This is just an example, but the same can be said for any devious website. To achieve law and order, we must give up our anonymity to the point that our ISP can provide the authorities with who was attached to a specific IP address at a given time. I will discuss how this could be achieved later on. Finally, government must be given the power to shut down a website after a process has been followed if the website itself or it’s members fail to stop breaking the law in question.

As I stated earlier the Internet was not designed to be used by a large population. The current technology used on the Internet to hand out addresses known as IPv4 only has enough space for 4 billion addresses, and we are running out of them. The Internet is designed to be anonymous, allowing for security issues and personal attacks. The design of the Internet also prevents a user from being secure. All in all, a re-design of the Internet would solve a lot of our problems. It would solve the security issues, the personal attack issues, and could be designed to allow better access. Will this happen? No. It would be far too complex to re-create the Internet while maintaining our current global network infrastructure. With this being said I invite you all to discuss what you don’t like about the Internet. What would you change?

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