KEY POINTS

  • China is testing its own GPS system
  • Russia has created a domestic web
  • Proposed Internet balkanization prompted fears of authoritarianism

The internet, as we know it, may change soon. For the past two decades, we have been attuned to a global internet that has led to the vast expanse of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, which have changed how we perceive the world.

Efforts have repeatedly been made globally to regulate the internet. It seems two authoritarian regimes are now coming close to having a fully functional internet of their own.

China created its own internet long time back by firewalling anything the government did not consider apt. The great Chinese firewall makes the internet in the country well-regulated. Facebook and Twitter don’t work in the country, neither does Google. Now, the country has designed its own GPS, which may compete with the Global Positioning System that is operated by the U.S.

Instead of relying on the U.S. Air Force satellites, the Chinese system will get inputs from the Beidou network of satellites and may provide data to around 70 percent of phones in the country, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

China is making far-reaching attempts to break the U.S. and European hegemony over telecommunications, whether it be 5G infrastructure or other telecommunications technologies.

Russia, meanwhile claims to have designed its own internet. A representative from the country’s Ministry of Communications told BBC Friday that the country had tested detaching itself from the global internet, without any marked changes to user experience. This essentially means that Russia will have its own internet, which is raising alarms.

“Sadly, the Russian direction of travel is just another step in the increasing breaking-up of the internet. Increasingly, authoritarian countries that want to control what citizens see are looking at what Iran and China have already done. It means people will not have access to dialogue about what is going on in their own country, they will be kept within their own bubble,” Prof Alan Woodward, a computer scientist at the University of Surrey told BBC.

Basically, this would mean that these countries will be able to create virtual borders and decide how internet functions within the physical borders of the country.

However, having your own internet would also mean increased economic security. In times of conflict, the global system of undersea cables, which powers the internet could be blocked by the U.S.

Maybe in a decade from now, as virtual borders come up, we may see the current version of the internet with nostalgia.