Internet Fragmentation:
An Explainer

Advocate to resist Internet fragmentation, and uphold the open, global Internet.

The Internet is a vital resource that allows us to connect, communicate, collaborate, and create with anyone, anywhere. It is the backbone of the world economy. How we shape Internet-related policy could have a profound effect on how the Internet functions for generations to come.

Despite good intentions, decision-makers in government and industry are increasingly making decisions that have the potential to hurt the open, global Internet.

Any policy or decision that undermines the open, global, interoperable nature of the Internet—the very attributes that have empowered people everywhere to benefit from it—contributes to fragmenting the Internet. Instead of the same global, seamless Internet that the world now relies on and benefits from, we could end up with a splintered, degraded version of the Internet that is unrecognizable to the one we have today. One where ordinary people are not able to create, share, and connect freely.

The Internet Society has developed this explainer to help people understand what Internet fragmentation means. It includes a range of examples of policies and decisions that could undermine the open, global Internet, or are already doing that. We’ve grouped them by type, to help you explore some characteristics of decisions and policies. They’re also organized by region, although many of these regional threats also have global impact. Use it to compare policies from across the world, draw parallels between resources, see how others have advocated against Internet fragmentation—and help you do that, too.

“Fair Share” Proposal in the EU

A Fragmented Digital Future for Europe?
The EU’s “fair share” model will force large platforms to pay more, and it will fragment the Internet.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

What Gets Sacrificed for the Sake of Speed?
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) offered faster loading times, but it also created a walled garden.

Brazil’s Cost-Sharing Proposal

Cost-Sharing Models Undermine the Global Internet
Brazil is considering cost-sharing between telecom and Internet services. What’s at stake?

Cambodia’s National Internet Gateway

National Internet Gateways Are a Threat to the Internet
A proposal in Cambodia would turn the country’s Internet into a national Intranet.

Canada’s Online News Act

Who Loses When Platforms Don’t Show News to Canadian Users?
A law in Canada means people cannot access news on some major online platforms. It is making people less connected, and less safe.

Disconnecting Countries from the Global Internet

People in War or Crisis Need the Internet More Than Ever
Politicizing decisions about the Internet sets a dangerous precedent. We could end up losing the Internet and its benefits.


Moderating Content Can’t Be a Blunt Instrument
A new EU-based DNS resolver could become a content moderation tool, if it’s made mandatory.


Our Kids Are Safer with Encryption
Encryption helps to ensure national security and the safety of our infrastructure. EARN IT is a direct threat to that.

EU Cybersecurity Certification Scheme

Protectionism Doesn’t Protect Internet Users
A proposed certification scheme in the EU confuses more control for more security.

India’s Internet Shutdowns

Everyone Loses When India Shuts Down the Internet
India has a bright future ahead of it–and for that, it must keep the Internet on and strong.

Indian CERT Cybersecurity Directions

What Happens If You Can’t Trust a Clock?
A policy in India threatens the resilience and accuracy of the time servers the Internet relies on.

Internet Shutdowns during Elections

What Happens If You Can’t Get Online during Election Time?
Political parties, candidates, and voters benefit from the Internet. It must remain on and strong during elections.

Internet Shutdowns during Exams

Shutting Down the Internet Cheats Everyone
Some governments shut down the Internet during exam time, to prevent cheating. But it is disproportionate, and it cheats everyone.

Mauritius: ICTA’s Threat to Encryption

Indiscriminate Surveillance Does Not Make Us Safer
A policy in Mauritius threatened to break encryption, and has been met with strong opposition.

Nepal’s National Internet Gateway

Borders Are a Fundamental Threat to the Global Internet
Nepal has a lot to gain from the open, global Internet. So why is the country closing the doors on it?

Reforming Contributions to Universal Service

Universal Service Needs to Be Fair For Everyone
Universal Service funds help us reach the most under-served. But this cannot come at the cost of the open, global Internet.

Russia’s ‘Sovereign Internet’ Law

Centralizing the Internet Always Undermines the Global Network
Russia undermines the agility and resilience of its networks by passing the ‘Sovereign Internet’ law.

Russia’s National DNS

Mandating Certain Types of Connections Is Risky
A measure in Russia’s “Sovereign Internet” law undermines the availability, performance, and resilience of the Internet.

Sony’s Case against Quad9

What Happens When a Court Orders a DNS to Block Content?
A court ruling in Switzerland could have an impact across borders.

South Korea: Sender Pays

A Digital Bad Deal for South Korea
Policies in South Korea are making the Internet less global, more expensive, and less reliable.

The Chinese Firewall

When is the Internet Not the Internet?
China’s intranet is so separated from the global Internet that it is more accurately described as a national intranet.

Turkey’s ‘Censorship Law’

A Backdoor for Law Enforcement Can Let the Bad Guys in Too
Turkey threatens its own security by requiring user data on encrypted platforms.

UK Online Safety Act

Safety Should Not Cost People Their Privacy
The UK has institutionalized a pervasive model of government surveillance in the name of online safety.

Zero-rated Content

A Net Negative for Net Neutrality
When providers offer something for free, sometimes it comes at a cost.

We need your help.

If the Internet gets fragmented, access to resources, websites, platforms, and services will depend on who and where we are. Internet Society works to defend the Internet from this splintering. Make a donation to support our work, and together we can achieve our vision of an Internet that is more global, not less.