The Internet is a global network made up of different webs of various organizations and companies. All of them depend on physical servers located in countries all over the world with their own regulations and laws. Despite being considered a universal and free space, we are approaching a definitive change on the Internet. 

Fragmentation is the limitation of the internet. This may be due to technical issues that make it impossible to access it or local laws. For example, when governments restrict certain uses of the Internet to establish, market, or allow access to information resources.

The  governmental and technical fragmentation of the Internet

Since the 1990s, this global space began to fragment. The most famous example is China’s Golden Shield Project, better known as the Great Firewall, which was devised in 1998 and became operational in 2003. The objective was to regulate and limit the use of the Internet, by using surveillance and censorship of activities and applications. Other countries, most with authoritarian systems, have followed China’s steps and use the Internet as an unprecedented mechanism of social control.

Although Internet infrastructure, hardware, software, and protocols are the same around the world, political differences have led nations like Russia to develop their own technologies. Since 2019, Russia has been working on its own Domain Name Server (DNS) system that would allow it to manage and direct all its web traffic within its borders, without relying on the hierarchical global DNS system.

Likewise, large corporations such as Google, Amazon, and Apple fragment the network to support their own technologies, products, and strategies.

How to act against fragmentation

 A fragmented internet poses significant challenges in terms of technical standards and cybersecurity and negatively impacts human rights. In the specific case of Guatemala, where Internet penetration is only 50%, this fragmentation can slow down the country’s digitization process and segment the population. Aligning entire populations and making it difficult for them to access communication and education.

To address these challenges, it is necessary to establish international policies and standards to maintain the Internet as a global and open space, where innovation and creativity can thrive. It is also critical to ensure equitable access to the Internet and the resources it offers. For Guatemala, it is important to implement measures such as the expansion of the telecommunications infrastructure and the promotion of Internet access in rural and marginalized areas. Discover more cybersecurity topics here.