Are borderlines on the Internet unthinkable? A French court has been studying the feasibility of requiring Yahoo! to block auctions of Nazi items from French Web surfers' view. China is working to implement a separate national Internet that some analysts fear will both block international sites and prevent access by outsiders. The compartmentalizing of the Internet could bode ill for small businesses that, by virtue of the Web, have become global enterprises.
John Patrick, vice president of Internet Technology at IBM and chairman of the Global Internet Project, isn't worried. "There probably are ideas in various parts of the world to in some way fractionalize the Internet. Technically it's possible to do something like that, but in the long term I don't think efforts of that nature can be successful. It's also technically possible to defeat those kinds of efforts, and to the extent that there's value to accessing the borderless Internet, people will find a way to get connected to it."
The word to small businesses is, don't lose sleep over the news stories. The borderless Internet, by virtue of its basis in global standards and openness, is bound to defeat any major efforts at regionalization or restricted access. "Regulating the Internet is like regulating the wind," says Patrick. "It's not going to happen."