LCL: As we think about a European internet, let’s rethink internet architecture

It was Angela Merkel who first suggested creating a ‘European internet’. I strongly support this idea. Today, most internet providers are based in the US. The backbone providers, however, are all US companies. Under US law, they must hand over any information they store to the US government when requested to do so, even if the information is stored in Europe. This was made crystal clear by the verdict of the trial recently lost by Microsoft, which challenged the obligation to supply the US government on demand with information stored outside of the US. It would seem that the US really is acting like ‘Big Brother’, which is obviously unacceptable to us Europeans, particularly since US companies are opposed to it, too. But what can we do?

If all European data is kept within European networks and at European companies, there would be no obligation whatsoever to deliver any data to the NSA or US government services in general. European networks could be linked directly, rather than through the US internet backbones. We could create something similar to the Shengen zone for our data. This can be achieved by linking European internet exchanges. Each country has at least one internet exchange. The European Commission could promote direct encrypted links between these data traffic exchanges. The longer the data stays on a European network, the smaller the risk that it will be used against us by third parties.

These measures would certainly allow us to secure our data a lot more than we can at present. But that wouldn’t be the only advantage. Data would be delivered much faster if it didn’t have to go all the way to the US and back.

As we think about a European internet, let’s rethink the architecture of the internet in general. We could make the infrastructure more robust, and reach new agreements on protocols, all the while making sure that the internet remains open and neutral, of course. For instance, we could try to find ways to prevent viruses from spreading around the world in an instant, and try to limit spamming. But the biggest problem of all is DDoS attacks, and we should try our hardest to make a denial of service impossible. An innovative anti-DDoS infrastructure, ‘Nawas’, has been developed in the Netherlands, so relevant knowledge and initiatives already exist within Europe.

Let’s bring techies and academics together and create a think-tank to make our internet better, more secure and more efficient. I feel that Europe should take a leading role in this. It would, among other things, put Europe back on the map as a region full of vision and potential, and a force to be reckoned with!

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