To no one's surprise, except perhaps the New York Times, internet traffic is going global, and more so with each passing year. The result is that more traffic is flowing through servers outside the United States. The chief concern about this development, according to the NYT article, was the fact that it has made it more difficult for US intelligence agencies to spy on internet traffic.

Indeed, Internet industry executives and government officials have acknowledged that Internet traffic passing through the switching equipment of companies based in the United States has proved a distinct advantage for American intelligence agencies. In December 2005, The New York Times reported that the National Security Agency had established a program with the cooperation of American telecommunications firms that included the interception of foreign Internet communications.

That's precisely why many countries are bypassing US networks. The EU, for instance, has much more stringent privacy laws than we have in the United States. The Patriot Act only exacerbated the issue because it gave US law enforcement officials wide latitude to monitor data, data that's still protected in the EU. For that reason (and perhaps other more complex economic and political ones), EU countries are finding new ways to move data without going through US servers. If US officials are worried about this, they only have themselves to blame.

Whether US intelligence officials like it or not, the internet does not exist for them to to spy on incoming traffic. It has another purpose, one that should please the capitalist side of the equation. It has become the engine of worldwide commerce and communication and it is where business gets done. It's actually in everyone's economic interest to keep it up and running, and there is little reason to suddenly fret because China and India are building their own infrastructures. I would be more concerned if they weren't, given their growing internet user base and huge populations. Some could look at this as a threat, but if you're smart, you'll look at it as a business opportunity. If the Chinese can access the internet, you can reach the Chinese far more easily than you could if they had no internet on-ramp.

What's more, global expansion of the internet means it's less likely we might run out of capacity, an idea that has been floated around in the last year (and one in which I wrote about in Will P2P Really Kill the Internet?). The more countries that are adding capacity, the healthier the network should be.

Let's face it, the internet opens up the world in ways that weren't possible just 20 years ago and the fact the internet is expanding out of US control is not only not news, it's a no-brainer. US intelligence and the NYT might not like it, but it's a world-wide network. It's operating as expected.

Have something to contribute to this discussion? Please be thoughtful, detailed and courteous, and be sure to adhere to our posting rules.