Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Melissa Hathaway ─ A Surplus of Politics and a Dearth of Ideas—The Struggle for Internet Dominance

Thursday, April 24, 2014

12:30 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum

Lunch will be served.

We are in the middle of a strategic competition for power and influence of all aspects of the Internet. Countries are provisioning near ubiquitous communications to every household and business, and pursuing Internet of Everything (IoE) — the intelligent connection of people, processes, data, and things — to increase productivity and efficiency, enhance work force skills, drive innovation, and deliver GDP growth. Yet, it is also creating a strategic vulnerability for these countries by creating an infrastructure- Internet dependency for every essential citizen service ranging from e-banking, e- health, e-learning, e-commerce, e-government, next generation power grids, air traffic control, and so on. These infrastructures are now an attractive platform for a wide range of nefarious cyber activities which are increasing in frequency and impact. Consequently, our trust in the Internet is diminishing and more importantly, our GDP is eroding.

This is why tensions are rising and why the Internet is being debated along economic, technical, regulatory, and policy issues. The battle for control is at the forefront of negotiations in various international venues. There is a growing perception by many countries around the world that the United States and her companies have too much “control” over the Internet — and this view has been exasperated by the Snowden disclosures. The continuous release of information regarding Internet surveillance and intervention is accelerating national desires (and agendas) to advocate for venues like the United Nations and other international fora as the legitimate place to determine the future of the Internet (economy, technology, regulation, and policy) thereby establishing their own foothold on Internet matters and eroding the United States’ (and the West) position. It is also giving voice to companies who feel violated and are losing real market share around the world.

Melissa Hathaway is president of Hathaway Global Strategies LLC and a senior advisor at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center. She served in two Presidential administrations where she spearheaded the Cyberspace Policy Review for President Obama and led the the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative for President George W. Bush. Ms. Hathaway is a frequent keynote speaker on cyber security matters, and regularly publishes papers and commentary in this field.

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