Our Stake in Cyberspace

The Future of the Internet and Communication As We Know It

By Judi Clark

NetAction Advisory Board Member



The future is uncertain. A useful tool for looking into the uncertainty is a set of scenarios. Good scenarios explore the extremes of what is likely or possible (but they don't forecast the future). This report uses four scenarios to explore the future of the Internet and communication as we have come to know it.

Starting with the beginnings of the Internet, this report defines two significant market and political forces affecting the Internet and shaping our four scenarios: intellectual property laws and common carrier laws. Tying intellectual property laws to availability of content, and common carrier laws to the proprietary nature and uses of the network, these forces become axes that define four possible worlds:

  1. highly competitive, open content but a proprietary and restrictive network,

  2. open and available content on open and accessible networks,

  3. monopolistic, restricted content on proprietary, restrictive network, and

  4. monopolistic, restricted content on open and accessible networks.

These four scenarios help us understand where development of our telecommunications future is headed.

Part I: The Many Networks

Part II: Four Scenarios

Part III: Footnotes

This paper is available as a single HTML file, a Microsoft Word 5.1 document, and a PDF document.

In Closing

The author wishes to thank Nicole Parizeau, Judith Cohen, and Audrie Krause for their assistance in preparing this report.

About the Author

Judi Clark, a NetAction Advisory Board Member, has been riding the curl of the Internet wave for over a dozen years. During that time, she has explained, instructed, illustrated, documented, written copy, set context, and provided perspectives for a wide variety of businesses, schools, and clients.

December 2002