I hope I'm not included in the mindless nonsense category, offtopic I'd agree with. Michael Geist has a sobering account [michaelgeist.ca] of his recent trip behind the Great Firewall of China (note to ed. mf: I thought I coined that term). China is now re-opening some internet cafes, all to be run by the politically correct. It also expects its ISPs to practice self censorship (agreements it gets in writing). Thus it can exert control at various levels and various chokepoints. Sure these can be got around if you really know what you're doing, but who does? I was a user of anonymous remailer anon.penet.fi when it got raided [xs4all.nl] and records seized by the Finland police based on a trumped up charge by the silentogists (I still think I coined that term) in a modern western democracy, even the workarounds can be worked around if you've got enough money and/or power. Good and bad governments and many corps normally have both. China also blocks [rfa.org] or otherwise interferes with radio and television (to use your example) and I'd probably be more careful about what I said on the telephone there (to use your other).|
While it is nice to think that we are weaving a seamless net, if anything we are in many ways tearing apart what we already had. It is a minor annoyance but if google.com susses out my incoming Canadian IP it gives me google.ca instead of google.com and the same search on each sometimes yields different results. If I go to yahoo.com and want to sign up for an email account it gives me email@example.com, and mebbe I don't want that one. I'm not going to bother to mask my IP just for this (and how many users know how?), I doubt there is anything nefarious in these examples, but the net is already becoming increasingly segmented along national lines even in the free world. Prof. Geist gives examples (and there are numerous others) of Canadian court gag-orders that were got around by hosting websites outside the country. One needn't imagine our courts or government or those of other democracies using chokepoints to block something they really don't want, eg: Yahoo and France. While Vint Cerf opined that such a total block is impossible, if you've only got a small minority of geeks and lucky folks able to access the global internet from a democracy, let alone a repressive regime, it more or less doesn't much matter. And ICANN controls the IP numbers (it has already rendered the DNS far less trustworthy), making it the best potential chokepoint of all. They've got nowhere to go but down.
You're quite right that the net should not and will not be US-centric, estimates are that China won't only pass the US in internet users long before the end of the decade, it will pass all other users worldwide. Then what use will they have of ICANN (or a similar successor)? With the US being an early net adopter they've about topped out so other countries, some perhaps not nice, will pass them too. In a sense it will be a global internet, but not in the sense of all or even most users being able to move bits from here to there.
BTW, the US Congress in 2002 passed [telephonetribute.com] a resolution that Italian-American Antonio Meucci had invented the telephone. The Canadian and presumably Scottish governments have yet to follow suit. Those pesky national boundaries. -g