The Pew Internet Project's annual canvass of experts indicates they are concerned governments will increasingly try to disrupt the way the Internet works and efforts to monetize Internet activities will affect the flow of information.
Thirty-five percent of those queried said they think there will be significant changes for the worse by 2025. Of the 65 percent who expressed optimism on the issue, a number said it was more a hope than a belief.
Those who expressed optimism noted billions more people will gain access to the Internet in the next decade.
The experts said they feared nations attempting to maintain security and political control will engage in blocking, filtering, segmentation and balkanization of the Internet.
“Governments worldwide are looking for more power over the Net, especially within their own countries. Britain, for example, has just determined that ISPs block sites the government considers ‘terrorist’ or otherwise dangerous," said Dave Burstein, editor of Fast Net News. "This will grow. There will usually be ways to circumvent the obstruction but most people won’t bother.”
University of North Carolina Professor Paul Jones, founder of ibiblio.org, said he hopes history is not indicative of what will happen.
"This time it will be different. [But] not without a struggle. Over the next 10 years we will be even more increasingly global and involved," he said. "Tech will assist this move in a way that is irreversible. It won’t be a bloodless revolution, sadly, but it will be a revolution nonetheless.”
"Repressive governments will be working hard to stop the spread of information," said Jim Hendler, a professor of computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an architect of the Web. "As today, there will be both good and bad news continually in that area, but over time more integration, access, and sharing will be a driving force.”
On the commercial side there are worries over net neutrality and whether ordinary people will be marginalized as the big players push for their interests.
"Corporate influence on the political process will largely eliminate the public’s freedom to do as they please on the Internet at least in the U.S.," a former chair of the Internet Engineering Task force wrote. "I would like to see the Internet come to be regarded as a public utility, as broadcast spectrum was, but I think the concentration of power is too extreme for that degree of freedom to happen.”