Is the door closing on open Internet?

The “open” movement has been building momentum in recent years. “Open data,” “open government”, “open innovation” – these concepts are about making information, gathered publicly or privately, available for anyone to access and use. This could then lead to research breakthroughs or new commercial ventures. Such an unrestricted digital future is seen by many as a natural next step for the Web.

But it may not be as simple as that. Such a progression is based on the assumption that a free and open system to house and distribute this information exists. The truth may not be so simple.

Tim Wu is a Professor at Columbia Law School and a renowned advocate for open Internet. He coined the phrase “net neutrality”, which is a call for all Internet content and websites to be treated equally by the networks controlling them. Wu worries that Internet carriers are finding more reasons to crack down on, or limit, their content.

In an essay he wrote last year for a book called The Next Digital Decade, Wu noted, ‘There are… certain commercial advantages to discriminatory networking that are impossible to deny, temptations that even the Internet’s most open firms find difficult to resist. …It seems obvious to me that open networking principles can be dislodged from their current perch.”

Wu will be discussing this issue at the Cybera Summit 2011: Data for All – Opening up the Cloud, where he will deliver one of the keynote addresses. Running from October 6-7 at The Banff Centre in Banff, AB, the Summit will cover the evolution of the cloud and open data applications (see video for more details).

Speakers will explore how open, shared and cloud technologies are helping to connect people and resources in new and exciting ways. They will also discuss issues that arise from these developments, including the debate over public versus private information.

In his essay, Wu asked, “Will we think of the open age of the Internet the way we think of communism, or the hula-hoop?”

What do you think? Will the movement towards “open” continue to grow, or simply become an out-lived trend? Leave your comments below or join us this October at Cybera’s Summit 2011 to further explore this idea.

About cyberainc
Cybera is a not-for-profit organization that works to spur and support innovation, for the economic benefit of Alberta, through the use of cyberinfrastructure. Cybera has offices in Calgary and Edmonton and collaborates with public and private sector partners to accelerate research and product development that meets the needs of today’s society. Through its access to computing infrastructure and cyberinfrastructure expertise, Cybera enables academic, industry, and government groups to innovate in priority areas, including health, energy, the environment, and emerging technologies. Cybera also operates CyberaNet, a high-speed, high-bandwidth advanced network in Alberta, and provides project management to WestGrid, a consortium that provides advanced computing resources in support of research across Canada. For more information, visit

One Response to Is the door closing on open Internet?

  1. Pingback: Open Source Culture « Digital Innovators

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