On March 30, amid the height of the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the China’s plans to advance what has been called a new internet model.

Under the name of ‘New IP’China formally presented the idea to the United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU), with a plan that involved the Asian giant’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, several Chinese operators, and Huawei, a company that right now leads the deployment of 5G in the world.

The underlying idea of ​​Beijing is to prevent the foreseeable increase in devices and future internet consumption with a change that would leave behind current protocols on which the internet has been founded since its inception. However, the Chinese idea was not long in being pointed out also as a mechanism that could help implement censorship measures.

The proposal gives food for thought coming from a country where its censorship policy is known for some websites and even complete services under its called ‘Great Firewall’, and the plans that Russia has also launched to create its own closed internet ecosystem, supposedly, to cure itself in health from massive attacks.

Is it really plausible that all of this is pushing for change on the web as we know it? Why are these fragmentation movements taking place in the network of networks? In the following lines we will try to analyze it:

The ‘New Internet’ China: What would it consist of?

Lets start by the beginning. What the Chinese government and Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei is proposing is a “New IP addressing system” for the Internet to replace TCP / IP.

What would change? To understand it, it is convenient to first review how the web currently works under protocols that have been largely updated on a basis that comes from its inception, more than 40 years ago.

Avi Richards / Unsplash

China alludes that the current internet will not support massive use in the coming years, and proposes to change it

The sending of any information over the internet occurs through small ‘packets’ that are sent from a device under two main protocols. The transmission protocol (TCP), complemented by the identification system (the known IP addresses).

The combination of both – TCP / IP – is what everything has been based on so far, expanding and improving over the years to assume more and more volumes on the Internet. For example, for a few years, the new IPv6 system was implemented, which expanded the number of existing IP addresses to prevent the massive use of new devices and that each one had its ‘registration’.

Well, what China proposes is to replace this system globally. How? The Financial Times has had access to part of the documentation submitted by China to the ITU. In these documents, the Chinese government and its telecommunication service providers such as Huawei argue that TCP / IP is “insufficient” for the use that the internet will have in the coming years, with the massive arrival of the Internet of Things and even put communications on the horizon using holograms. The power point that is included in the formal proposal, by the way, does not seem to be up to the standards of today’s tools.

Part of the presentation of the ‘New IP’ China to which the Financial Times has had access.

Verbatim in the documents TCP / IP is said to have “achieved relatively good security”. However, China feels that this “is still far from what we really need in the future,” and they also allude to user confidence:

“As universal connectivity develops, it is necessary to design and deploy a better security and trust model to provide a stable, reliable and long-term environment for people to use it.”

The solution they propose to this problem is their ‘new IP’, which they would get according his projects that the internet was “more dynamic and faster”. China and Huawei argue that the multiple connections that now occur between increasingly separate elements impair speed.

Image: Nicolás Rivera (Hypertextual)

The ‘New IP’ China would connect devices directly, without intermediaries, but it will be easier to block access by entities and operators

The fundamental part of your system is that it could bypass the intermediate step by satellite systems, creating networks that can connect directly between devices.

This at first sounds great, but in the case of Chinavoices that warn that it is possible that there is an intention to control. Cybersecurity company Oxford Information Labs in which it warns that “The new IP proposed by China would centralize control of the network in the hands of telecommunications operators, which in the Chinese case are administered or controlled by the state ”.

A more efficient internet: in speed and censorship

To this is added that the new Chinese internet would need some internal identification system to replace the current IP, and there the fear is that there is a data tracking superior to the current one. It should be remembered that China has long requested that real names be linked to internet users..

“The Internet is a network of networks, so the concept of the Internet as a single network under the exclusive control of a government, an operator or a company does not exist and it does not make sense. Surely he will never have it ”, explains Pere Tuset Peiró, professor of Computer, Multimedia and Telecommunication Studies at the Open University of Catalonia, who in an article on the institution’s website believed that, even if it were implemented, it would not be something of course simple.

Huawei ensures in its reports that it could start testing in 2021, and there are those who point out that doing so would not only be in China, but also in Africa, where it has settled strongly.

Russia has also been working for years on creating its own closed internet ecosystem

Explained in a few wordsWhat is feared is that this so-called “dynamic” system, but where everything depends on infrastructure providers and operators, may facilitate a much more efficient mechanism of censorship and tracking as well. Something that comes from China, due to its background, makes one think.

This does not avoid recognizing that China, with Huawei at the helm, is today one of the leading countries in developing new networks. And not only in the deployment of 5G – whose expansion is at the bottom of the techno-commercial war that ended up removing Android from its devices – but also for being several years ahead of IPv6 with a highly advanced five-year plan, the so-called China next generation internet .

Distributed network vs. Fragmented network

There is no assurance that ITU will adhere to this new protocol. Countries like the United States or Sweden, in fact, have already shown their reluctance. And the bottom line is really if it is really necessary, considering that the current TCP / IP system has been expanding effectively as the network has increasingly needed a greater flow of data. The Peak Test consumption that has occurred during the period of confinement by COVID-19, perhaps it is the largest.

What it does show, in any case, is the confluence of certain movements towards the creation of an increasingly fragmented internet.

A few months ago, Vladimir Putin’s Russia started tests to also launch its own internet. This ruso Russian internet ’or RuNet However, it was not born with one with a global vocation such as the Chinese proposal, but to turn Russia into what could be considered the largest intranet on the Planet. All with the intention, it was argued, of stopping its possible fall in the event of a massive attack.
Iran, too, has successfully cut off its citizens’ internet connection recently in a climate of protests. Censorship mechanisms that clearly seem to be easier with this new dynamic but also fragmented internet that China is now proposing.

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