China pledges to step up administration of Internet

The government is expanding control of the Internet to keep pace with new services

China says it will step up administration of the Internet this year while continuing to build out the country's fiber-optic backbone and expand broadband access for consumers.

The pledges were made in reports to the National People's Congress, China's parliamentary session that is currently taking place in Beijing.

Internet administration was mentioned in a keynote report on the work of the government. A copy of the English-language version was posted online by The Wall Street Journal. The Chinese government has yet to post the report on its website.

It underlined the importance of culture and noted the need the "strengthen the development of civic morality" and "speed up the establishment of moral and behavioral norms that carry forward traditional Chinese virtues."

The government is gradually expanding regulation of the Internet to keep pace with the emergence of new services, said Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing's Marbridge Consulting.

"You'll see an ongoing effort from China's authorities to make sure there are systems in place to regulate and control what sort of content is accessible," he said.

Natkin cited as an example the development of services that offer access to movies through an Internet-connected set-top box. The services allowed users access to almost any content through a menu that automatically downloaded the content from a peer-to-peer file-sharing network.

Initially such services were unregulated, but as they gained popularity the government found no company would take responsibility for the content that was being offered to users. As a result, the government moved to regulate them and there are now a handful of providers licensed to offer such services, said Natkin.

"The Internet is constantly evolving. With the addition of new forms of access come new ways to get around existing regulations," he said. "There's a very strong push in China to make sure that, regardless of access method, whatever content is available is [not what would be considered] unhealthy."

China will continue to expand its infrastructure this year, the government said in a draft of its plan for economic and social development. The report was compiled by the country's National Development and Reform Commission.

It calls for the establishment of projects to push a national broadband Internet agenda, cloud computing, machine-to-machine Internet communications, integrated circuits and flat-panel displays.

The commission said China will add 1 million kilometers of fiber optic cable to the 10 million already laid in the country, and raise the number of broadband Internet ports by 35 million to 223 million.

The report also detailed the break-neck speed at which China's IT manufacturing industry is expanding.

The country produced 57% more integrated circuits, 30% more electronic components, 35% more computers and 46% more cell phone handsets last year than in 2009, it said. The report didn't specify if the figures were for the number of units produced or their value.

Software sales totalled 1.3 trillion yuan ($198 billion) in 2010, up 30% on a year earlier.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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