IGP noted early on how progressive companies like eBay were viewing the content blocking and filtering aspects of the net neutrality debates as having broader economic impacts. Now it seems Silicon Valley is picking up on this emerging issue. Last week, in an article on how China is now blocking previously uncensored RSS feeds from outside the country, the folks at TechCruch observed:
The number of broadband internet users in China will surpass the United States within the next 12-18 months; China is fast becoming one of the most important online marketplaces in the world. Whilst some could well argue about the rights of a sovereign nation to censor content within its own borders, the more pressing issue from a Web 2.0 development and industry perspective is the use of the Firewall by the Chinese Government to unfairly block foreign competition, particularly at a time where the Chinese Government is trying to start, or is already in Free Trade Agreement negotiations with a number of countries, including Australia.
There is also some suggestion that China will enter an APEC FTA in the future: would it then be fair that online industries are either excluded from the FTA or that access rights are ignored by China under those agreements? Western Governments are still generally not focused enough on the benefits of online business in a broader economic sense, so unless there is some serious lobbying, or more understanding leadership, our industry will likely be forgotten in the clamor for mineral, industrial and agricultural trade.
These issues will only grow as the “participatory web” continues to emerge as an engine of economic growth in the United States and elsewhere. In the coming months, IGP plans to examine these issues in depth.