Australia has most to lose from global ‘Splinternet’

Former White House advisor says Australia may suffer most from global ‘Splinternet’

[Sydney 18th August 2020] A former Cyber-Security advisor to President George W. Bush and now Huawei USA Chief Security Officer Andy Purdy says that Australia may suffer more than any other country if the US Federal Government’s anti-China campaign creates a global ‘Splinternet’ with competing US and Chinese Internets.

Mr. Purdy says that ongoing US Federal Government attacks on Chinese technology companies will make it increasingly difficult to keep the Internet functioning in its current form as a single unified platform accessible in all countries – meaning potentially huge damage for a country like Australia that sends nearly half of its exports to China.

The current unified Internet is characterized by robust competition among equipment suppliers which helps to lower costs, boost innovation and increase security and resilience.

However, the US Government’s ‘Clean Networks’ initiative will create national barriers on the Internet and ignores existing WTO-based free trade agreements in the telecoms sector by placing bans on telecom hardware, app stores, subsea cables and even cloud-computing services from Chinese companies.

The ‘Clean Networks’ initiative has nothing to do with national security and is simply yet another attempt to damage China’s economic development and promote U.S. technology dominance by trying to isolate Chinese ICT companies in the global market and thereby protect US tech companies.

In trying to lure other countries into its ‘Clean Networks’ program the US Government will cause serious damage to the globalized digital economy by fracturing the Internet and placing walls between currently successful trading nations and negatively impact the benefits that flow from open competition.

After beginning with its campaign against Huawei then moving to TikTok the United States Federal Government has more recently banned WeChat – thereby potentially cutting huge numbers of US businesses off from being able to sell their goods and services in China.

As part of this program the US Federal Government is now also making it illegal for any US government agency to do business with any third-party business that has Chinese hardware in their ICT platform.

Andy Purdy, Huawei USA Chief Security Officer said:

“In the last twenty years access to an open Internet connecting it to it to the rest of the world has helped Australia achieve massive prosperity and finally overcome the tyranny of distance that had always held it back.

“That’s why the current moves by the US Government to create a fractured Internet would be absolutely disastrous for Australia.

“Any moves to create a fractured Internet split between separate American and Chinese architectures would potentially create huge problems for Australia given that nearly half of Australia’s exports go to the Chinese market.

“A ‘Splinternet’ would make it extremely difficult for Australia to maintain its currently hugely successful commercial relationship with China given how much commerce is now conducted over the Internet – even for physical goods.

“I would urge Australia to take whatever action is necessary to keep the Internet as a unified single platform and avoid any geo-political fracturing.”

Mr. Purdy will address the issues surrounding the possible creation of a global ‘Splinternet’ on the Let’s Talk Huawei vodcast on Wednesday 19th August at 10AM – you can register here:

Statement from the Internet Society:

The United States, the country that funded the early development of the Internet, is now considering policies that would fracture it into pieces. This is part of a larger disturbing trend where governments directly interfere with the Internet, attempting to score short-term political points without regard to the long-term damage that results.

The Internet is a global network of networks, where networks interconnect on a voluntary basis with no central authority. It is this architecture that has made the Internet so successful. Today’s announcement of the U.S. Clean Network program challenges this architecture at its very core.

The “Clean Carrier” and “Clean Cable” programs alone would force vast amounts of Internet traffic to route into third countries, extending the distances data must traverse, increasing the potential for surveillance and manipulation of Internet traffic, increasing the risk of Internet outages, and in general increasing costs to everyone on the Internet.

Having a government dictate how networks interconnect according to political considerations rather than technical considerations, runs contrary to the very idea of the Internet. Such interventions will significantly impact the agility, resiliency and flexibility of the Internet.

If this approach were to spread further, the ability of the Internet to bring the broader benefits of collaboration, global reach, and economic growth will be significantly threatened.

Policies like these only increase the global momentum towards a “Splinternet” — a fractured network, rather than the Internet we have built over the last four decades and need now more than ever.

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