Time was when the Internet couldn't do without America. After all America invented it and developed it to the extent that for over three decades, no matter where Internet data originated or headed, it had to pass through the fat pipes and fast switches there. Yet as the use of Internet explodes elsewhere in the world, America is not only fast losing its central status but is also seen as a country that may be risky for routing Internet data.

In late August the NYT carried a report that raised quite a bit of furor in the USA. It said that much to the dismay of many - and of the American intelligence community in particular -- Internet data is increasingly bypassing the United States, taking a more direct route. And although the Internet is built that way -- to be universal and not subject to a central point of control, the fact that Internet traffic is flowing around US is not good news for America. Not only does it make it "impossible for the United States to maintain its hegemony", but it also has long term "military and intelligence consequences."

The report has hit a sensitive spot. Quite a few experts that this correspondent spoke to -including a few who have been quoted in the report -- found it difficult to accept that Internet data flow is slackening in the US and even if data is bypassing the country, so what? "The idea of U.S. hegemony over data flow is silly," wrote one of the experts quoted in that report in her blog.

Yet take a look at some of the recent research reports and some other tell-tale signs and it becomes evident that US is losing its dominance on the global Internet data flow. Moreover, a few countries -- particularly upstart ones like China, South Korea and even India -- are already giving US a run for its money in terms of investing heavily in next-generation Internet technology, and even cutting US out of the routing loop.

"In 1996, two-thirds of the world's online population was in the US but the country now accounts for less than 21% of the worldwide Internet population," said Magid Abraham, Co-founder and CEO of comScore, Inc., that calls itself a global Internet information provider of real-time measurement of Internet use. He added that "though the Top 10 Global properties are still all based in the United States, they source the majority of their audience from outside the US."


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