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The internet is a precious achievement. But as its reach extends into more of our lives, so does the fear that it is undermining national standards in everything from crime prevention to taxation. If politicians around the world cannot agree on some basic rules, a backlash will force them to act.

By John Carr   June 1999

As recently as the early 1990s, the internet connected no more than 200,000 people (mainly academics) around the world. Today it reaches over 163m people and is set to double its reach within 18 months. Even the most die-hard sceptic must now accept that the internet is a very big deal indeed: Goldman Sachs predicts that by 2007, more than 70 per cent of all households in the richer OECD countries will have internet access; the number of people in Britain who are on-line at home or in the office is now estimated at 7m, with 10,000 joining every day.

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