The internet is primarily built on technology and infrastructure made by U.S. companies and controlled by U.S. tech giants. The Made in China 2025 policy, a 10-year plan to update China’s manufacturing base by rapidly developing 10 hi-tech industries, is likely to see an upgrade of the country’s internet infrastructure that will put in place data centres and servers built in China that it can easily control.Iran has already done this on a smaller scale. Dubbed the Halal Net, the country has a “walled-garden intranet” that allows the theocratic country to control what its citizens see and monitors their every online move. India has also introduced data localization laws that require user information be stored on servers in India and India alone.Technology transfer — or stealing — has been a big issue for Donald Trump in his trade war with China. It is obvious the U.S. seeks to derail Made in China 2025 and its Belt and Road Initiative that aims to build infrastructure in its neighbouring countries to boost its influence.Chinese-made technology is no longer being used in key infrastructure in the West, with British Telecom due to remove Huawei technology from its 3G and 4G networks amid fears that the Chinese government could use it for spying. New Zealand and Australia have also stopped telecom operators using Huawei’s equipment for similar reasons. Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, was arrested in Vancouver on charges relating to the violation of sanctions against Iran.Beijing has expressed outrage over her detention, increasing tensions. Although the arrest is not tied to technology directly — the charges relate to sanctions-busting actions with Iran — Huawei remains under suspicion.The Balkanization of the internet is already under way. The open, free-speech-dominated Anglosphere model does not work everywhere The age of the global internet may be coming to an end as mistrust between East and West mounts. Rising protectionism, nationalism and security fears could see the internet split into separate parts, so countries can control what they regard as its negative aspects. This potential outcome, which has become known as the splinternet, could put globalization into reverse, damage world trade and cut off western technology companies from growth markets.Eric Schmidt, the former Google chief executive, thinks such an outcome is not only possible but likely within the next 10 to 15 years. What will happen if he is right?The internet was developed by the West and private companies were allowed to develop new businesses without government interference. As well as unleashing a wave of creative destruction in industries from retail to print publishing to broadcasting, there are negative aspects that governments in other parts of the world are keen to control, be they political or religious.Apple, Google CEOs bring star power to China as country pushes for tighter digital controlThe internet giants are losing our trust. That’s not good for anybodyRemember the internet of the ’90s? That’s what Canada’s outdated data protection laws were meant to handleDifferent countries have different priorities and a one-size-fits-all internet is having difficulty meeting this goal. One solution could be to pull the plug on the open, global internet and instead create a series of independent networks. Schmidt talks about a bifurcated internet — one U.S.-led and one China-centric.However, some think that a European-based network is also possible, as the continent appears keener on data protection and regulation that anyone based in Washington. Indeed, earlier this year, Europe introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which supports privacy in a world in which companies can benefit significantly from using and misusing personal information harvested from individuals. This raises the possibility of a breakup of the world wide web into three separate internets.The Balkanization of the internet is already under way. The open, free-speech-dominated Anglosphere model does not work for China, where censorship and surveillance are a key priority. The country has already raised what is known as the Great Firewall of China, which blocks access to a selection of foreign websites and slows cross-border traffic.In 2010, this blocked Google’s search engine in the country. As a result, Google has been developing a censored search engine for China in a project known as Dragonfly.Giving testimony this week to a congressional committee, Google CEO Sundar Pichai denied the company would launch a censored search engine any time soon, despite admitting it was being developed. This raises the question as to why is it being developed if there are no plans to deploy the amended browser.Iran has a ‘walled-garden intranet’ that allows the theocratic country to control what its citizens see Should the splinternet become a reality, serious global consequences are likely. Segmenting the internet will have major implications for ecommerce, as the ability to service a global market will be reduced drastically. There may be a dizzying array of different standards and companies may be cut out of some markets altogether.Businesses such as Amazon and Google could lose their global dominance as the major growth markets in Asia are moved out of their sphere of influence. It could lead to the segregation of supply chains, which is likely to increase business costs. It could result in less competition in segregated markets, which could push up prices for consumers. It is also likely to allow authoritarianism to prosper.It is unclear whether Schmidt’s vision of a digitally divided world will ultimately come to pass, but not insignificant steps in this direction are already being made. We may already be witnessing the end of the world wide web as the era of virtual borders dismantles its global reach.• Garry White is chief investment commentator at wealth manager Charles Stanley & Co.