The internet will always be there for you. Or not.

internet-outage

Digital transformation as we know it would be impossible without the internet. This global network of connected computers and devices enables us to access information, resources, and services, to transact business, to communicate and collaborate in real time from anywhere in the world, to entertain and educate ourselves, and more. Without the internet, everyone would still be using CD-ROMs and encyclopedias. Talk about stone knives and bearskin.

But nobody knows what the internet of five, 10, or 20 years from now will be like. The internet is dynamic and constantly changing due to new technologies, competition, business decisions, and national laws and regulations. I’ve assembled a bunch of internet-related headlines — from just one search! — to provide a glimpse into the breadth of potential and actual changes to the internet, some of which could impact enterprises and individual users.

Internet companies to face broad speech regulations in U.K.

Big telecom companies are suppressing fast internet

Hate your internet provider? Look to space

Australia To Criminalize Failure To Remove Violent Content From Internet Platforms

China’s Next Naval Target Is the Internet’s Underwater Cables

Google and other tech giants are quietly buying up the most important part of the internet

Section 230 created the internet as we know it. Don’t mess with it

Will Russia Disconnect From the Internet on April 1?

Why there’s so little left of the early internet

Looking at the headlines above, a few things are clear:

  • The internet is vulnerable to power struggles between nations, between private enterprises, and between nations and private enterprises
  • Private companies can exert control over internet speed and access
  • Nations can exert control over internet speed and access
  • No matter what, technology marches on

Those first three bullet points are depressing because they make clear how internet users — individuals and organizations — have no real control over their internet-using fate. If your country decides to block YouTube, you won’t be able to use YouTube (without risk, anyway). Or if your provider decides to throttle bandwidth, your Netflix binge-watching will become far less enjoyable.

That last bullet point — technology constantly evolves — is what fuels the ongoing process of private enterprises and governments struggling to leverage these technologies to their advantage. It also offers reason for optimism: Technology evolves to solve problems, fill needs, and overcome barriers. It rarely does so easily or without resistance, but the arc of history shows that technological advancements have a generally beneficial effect on society.

That being said, technology also can be used for nefarious purposes, and can be controlled and limited by people, organizations, and governments. This includes the internet, whose very existence is more fragile and unstable than we’d like to believe. For enterprises and individuals who rely on this global network of digital information and services, that’s a sobering reality.

 

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