The Internet has created an extraordinary new democratic forum for people around the world to express their opinions. It is revolutionizing global access to information: Today, more than 1 billion people worldwide have access to the Internet, and at current growth rates, 5 billion people — about 70 percent of the world’s population — will be connected in five years.
But this growth trajectory is not inevitable, and threats are mounting to the global spread of an open and truly “worldwide” web. The expansion of the open Internet must be allowed to continue: The mobile and social media revolutions are critical not only for democratic institutions’ ability to solve the collective problems of a shrinking world, but also to a dynamic and innovative global economy that depends on financial transparency and the free flow of information.
The threats to the open Internet were on stark display at last December’s World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai, where the United States fought attempts by a number of countries — including Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia — to give a U.N. organization, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), new regulatory authority over the Internet. Ultimately, over the objection of the United States and many others, 89 countries voted to approve a treaty that could strengthen the power of governments to control online content and deter broadband deployment.
In Dubai, two deeply worrisome trends came to a head.
First, we see that the Arab Spring and similar events have awakened nondemocratic governments to the danger that the Internet poses to their regimes. In Dubai, they pushed for a treaty that would give the ITU’s imprimatur to governments’ blocking or favoring of online content under the guise of preventing spam and increasing network security. Authoritarian countries’ real goal is to legitimize content regulation, opening the door for governments to block any content they do not like, such as political speech.
Second, the basic commercial model underlying the open Internet is also under threat. In particular, some proposals, like the one made last year by major European network operators, would change the ground rules for payments for transferring Internet content. One species of these proposals is called “sender pays” or “sending party pays.” Since the beginning of the Internet, content creators — individuals, news outlets, search engines, social media sites — have been able to make their content available to Internet users without paying a fee to Internet service providers. A sender-pays rule would change that, empowering governments to require Internet content creators to pay a fee to connect with an end user in that country.
Sender pays may look merely like a commercial issue, a different way to divide the pie. And proponents of sender pays and similar changes claim they would benefit Internet deployment and Internet users. But the opposite is true: If a country imposed a payment requirement, content creators would be less likely to serve that country. The loss of content would make the Internet less attractive and would lessen demand for the deployment of Internet infrastructure in that country.
Musical supremo Elton John has revealed that scientists have successfully made him pregnant, using the genetically modified womb from an old bear. Sir Elton, 65, has barely suffered any signs of morning sickness, although he did feel the urge to hibernate in late November.
The pianist and his partner, David Furnish, already have one baby, born by a human surrogate somewhere in California. But the happy couple are expecting the follow up to be ‘even better than the old one’, thanks to the miracle of science, a grizzly’s second-hand lady-pocket and cutting edge techniques which have combined to produce what Elton describes as his best albumen yet.
“There’s no feeling like it, having a little human growing inside you”, explained Elton. “It’s fantastic that these days, age is no barrier to being a mum. And a Christmas baby? Well, that’s the best gift I could have hoped for. Although I’d still like that steam train and a Dubai island shaped like my face.”
Furnish explained that differing gestation periods between the species ‘Homo sapiens’ and ‘Ursa Minorus Keyus’ make it hard to calculate exactly when the baby is due, but a full medical team are on stand-by for Elton’s sell-out Christmas tour. “Obviously, it would be a dream come true for Elton to squeeze it out on stage during an encore”, admitted Furnish. “But failing that, I think we’d both quite like a water birth.”
The singer has denied media claims that he is ‘too posh to push’, and is adamant that he won’t resort to a C-section. But doctors are keeping a sharp knife handy just in case he changes his mind, and have seized the opportunity to warn other elderly men in a similar position of the risk of hernia at least, or even a full rectal prolapse.
Mumsnet have criticised the star for being ‘too old’ to have a baby, but Sir John’s team are unconcerned. “David’s found this wonderful nanny to take care of everything, and Elton will be singing songs from his back catalogue to sooth situations and ease any tension as the child grows,” said his gynaecologist. “But hormones do play an important part at times like this. Obviously we’ll move everyone away to a safe distance if he storms off to his piano starts playing ‘the Bitch is Back’.”