The term “internetwork” originally described a set of interconnected networks—a network of networks. The global Internet, the largest and best-known computer network, is no different—it is a network of networks. Because the Internet is a network of networks, no one owns the Internet. Each network that makes up the Internet is owned and operated by a private company, college, government, or other organization.
The composition of the Internet—a network of independently owned networks—is not an accident. The design of each Internet component is intentionally tuned to support a distributed system, a network without a central controlling authority. The distributed nature of the Internet allowed it to spread quickly across the globe and makes it hard to “shut down the Internet” at any national border.
Recently, however—within the last ten years—the Internet has been moving toward centralization. Rather than dispersing data and services throughout the world, content and connectivity are being concentrated into a small set of hands. This centralization is causing many in the engineering and Internet policy world to become worried.