Wed, May 03, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Monopolizing Net does not compute

By Y. G. Tang

Amid fierce competition to develop Chinese-language content for the Internet, what is the appropriate role of Taiwan's government? Many government bodies have already delegated Internet resources through administrative authority and legislation. As a result, what was once free access to the Internet is becoming increasingly more expensive. Internet users' interests have been short changed. The development of the Internet in Taiwan is increasingly being permeated by corruption. In light of this, a "Basic Internet Law" is needed to protect the public's fundamental rights and privileges.

The Directorate General of Telecommunications denies people the right to freely operate private service telecommunications networks (PSTN) by requiring steep minimum qualifications and inviting "experts" to evaluate applicants' qualifications. But the amount of start-up capital needed and a reasonable way to manage a PSTN are issues to be decided by the market, rather than the so-called experts.

Telecommunications technology develops at a rapid rate. As a result, the actual start-up capital needed to operate a PSTN is declining. Under the circumstances, what the government must do is nurture fair competition, rather than having the existing major players continue monopolizing the industry.

The Electronic Signature Act deprives people of the right to serve as authorities capable of certifying electronic signatures by requiring government approval of the authorities' and regulation of their business operations. The only commodity sold by these authorities is public trust. Public trust accumulates over time, rather than through government approval. Plus, people are typically distrustful of the government in most democratic countries. How then can the government help a certified authority win public trust? This exercise of government power only results in market monopolies.

Some foreign experts have pointed out that, as a result of the rapid change in the Internet industry, the government is neither capable nor required to set any policies for the industry. However, the Industrial Development Bureau has recently published an Internet industry policy in which it listed security certification as a key issue. Internet security is a matter to be handled by the Internet users themselves. No one wants to have his or her personal information misappropriated on the Internet. This need to safeguard information would naturally lead to a new industry to foster Internet security.

The way people intrude on other people's information over the Internet is constantly changing. Under the circumstances, a formal security standard would accomplish nothing except informing the would-be intruders of how to outsmart the security system. A small minority of scholars prefers a security certification system under which they themselves would serve as certification authorities. Thereby, in the days to come, they would be able to live in luxury by simply stamping their approval on a daily basis. The bureau's establishment of a certification system is due to the influence of conglomerates interested in reaping profits from the system.

More than 30 years ago, Taiwanese and Indians were the two largest ethnic groups in America's information industry. Now, Taiwan's information hardware industry and India's information software industry both play extremely important roles worldwide.

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