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Parallels Between Our Oceans and Internet Governance #WorldOceanDay

Today is June 8th and World Ocean Day. As I ponder on the threats and challenges to the world’s ocean with the enormous stresses such as overfishing, pollution, ocean acidification that threatens all global standards of living, I cannot help but think about the startling similarities that global internet governance faces with its respective stresses of increasing cyber security vulnerabilities, threats, breaches of trust, growing cyber crime, breaches of privacy and data protection, identity thefts, pedophilia and many other things that threaten global public interest and our safety within an internet ecosystem.

As someone who is absolutely crazy about the ocean, and water, it absolutely mortifies me to think that sadly the increasing pollution, oil spills, waste water seeping into the ocean, deep sea mining is chipping away at our capacity to enjoy our oceans. Similarly with the increasing threats against the internet, there is a very real likelihood that unless systems are put in place to ensure that the vast majority of people can enjoy the internet, we will have continuous chaos and mayhem.

Interestingly, just as the internet is subject to geopolitical turf wars, our oceans are also subject to the geopolitical turf wars. The South China sea and territorial claims is still causing massive friction for China, Japan, Korea and the US. Similarly, it is rumored that China intends to lay global submarine cable from an island in the Pacific directly to South America in attempts to bypass the long noses in the US.

Notwithstanding the fact that a core part of critical information infrastructure that serves as a backbone for communication are global submarine cables through which packets of information are transmitted and routed, it goes without saying that the world’s global submarine cables are vital in our capacity to enjoy seamless communication and is an important building block of a global borderless world. (A submarine communications cable is a cable laid on the sea bed between land-based stations to carry telecommunication signals across stretches of ocean.)

The first submarine communications cables was laid in the 1850s, carried telegraphy traffic, the evolution of global submarine cables which led to subsequent generations of cables carried telephone traffic, then data communications traffic. Today global submarine cables use optical fiber technology to carry digital data, which includes telephone, Internet and private data traffic and this has revolutionized the digital economy.

As global submarine cables continue to increase, this is directly proportional to the growth of the information and knowledge economy in the world today. We, as members of the Internet Governance, noting how important global submarine cables are to the Internet Universe as we know it, have a duty to ensure that we do our bit to protect our World’s Oceans.

Let’s join the global community in protecting our Oceans!

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Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet


Law of the Sea - Law of the Internet Jovan Kurbalija  –  Jun 8, 2015 8:18 PM

Thank you Sala for nice reminder about Ocean-Internet parallel. Last few days, I have been finalising background text for the session on a possible analogy between Law of the Sea and Law of the Internet. I hope you can join us in discussing legal aspects of this parallel/analogy.

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