Internet Governance

The Internet Infrastructure Coalition has a deep interest in the way the Internet is “governed.” Each of our member companies is affected by decisions made in regard to Internet governance, and we are increasingly involved in the institutions created by the Internet community to guide the development of the Internet. It is our firm belief that participation in these processes is not only a civic duty but also an economic necessity.

An Overview Of Internet Governance

The Internet was created from the bottom up. Those initially building the Internet did so on a collaborative basis, sharing ideas and debating the best methods to operate the network. These processes continue today in a variety of areas: people discussing Internet standards, naming and numbering policies, peering and interconnection and many other technical and administrative issues. In general, Internet policy is created in a collaborative fashion referred to by the Internet community as the “multistakeholder model.” This model attempts to be inclusive in nature, and consensus-based in its decision-making. While national governments are involved in the multistakeholder process, they have not traditionally had authoritative decision-making power.

The major entities involved in Internet coordination are:

These organizations are referred to as the “iStars” organizations. There are hundreds of lesser known organizations actively involved including root-server operators, DNS registries, Internet Exchange Points and IP address registries (regional and local). In addition, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has recently expressed interest in participating in Internet Governance issues. Discussion of global issues began in earnest through the United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process and continues today. Overarching policy issues are debated at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which arose from the WSIS process and is a non-binding discussion forum; however, many would like it to have a much greater role so that it creates actionable results. Civil society, business, advocacy organizations, and governments participate in each of these groups. Given the varied and diverse nature of Internet governance, there are many inflection points at which Internet organizations may provide input and many places where that input makes a critical difference. While there is some “multi-stakeholder” participation in ITU, decision-making ability (voting) is done solely by government representatives.

Internet Governance And Your Business

The i2Coalition understands that business plays a critical role in shaping Internet governance. The vast majority of the infrastructure that is the Internet relies on private entities. While these entities have a civic duty to develop the Internet, they are also obliged to move their business forward. Participation in the Internet governance process is critical to ensuring that the Internet remains a positive place to do business. Although Internet governance may appear to be abstract and removed from day-to-day business operations, businesses ignore it at their peril. Some issues that are currently being debated that directly affect Internet infrastructure businesses include:

  • Forced localization. Requiring all or some content to remain in a particular jurisdiction, or restricting the ability of infrastructure providers to transmit data across national borders without significant restrictions.
  • Sender pays. Attempting to force those who create and transmit data to pay for its transmission. This would change the “bill and keep” standard currently used.
  • Intermediary liability. Requiring infrastructure providers to have all, or some, liability for the content of their users.

The I2Coalition’s Internet Governance Directives

The i2Coalition believes that the following principles of Internet governance are key to a thriving and robust Internet:

  • Governance of the Internet is best undertaken by specialized groups. The Internet has thrived because technical experts have led its governance. Groups like the W3C and IETF focus almost exclusively on technical standards. These standards are designed to optimize the functionality and resiliency of the Internet, and not serve a particular entrenched technology or set of standards. This has allowed the creation of an open and free Internet in which one or a small set of businesses do not dominate.
  • Governments deserve a seat at the table. Some issues affecting the Internet cannot be resolved by entities other than governments. Governmental entities should be treated as an equal among all stakeholders in multistakeholder processes. No participant in Internet governance should be given veto power over any decision.
  • Internet governance must be transparent. Decisions made by governance bodies must be made openly in public forums, using a consensus-based process with significant opportunity for debate.
  • The development of the Internet should continue to be done at the edge of the network, by end users, and not mandated by governmental or intergovernmental entities.

Internet infrastructure providers have a unique viewpoint on the development possibilities the Internet provides. For most U.S. providers, over fifty percent of their business comes from outside the United States. As this business grows, these providers establish a presence outside the U.S. to be closer to their customers. Because of the investment involved in establishing Internet infrastructure, development cannot be forced. It will only come when small Internet businesses grow, making infrastructure investments viable.

Our Work With Internet Governance Organizations

The i2Coalition has become involved in the multistakeholder decision-making process and has made increasing its presence in this process a key priority in the group’s two-year strategic plan. This increased participation will take place by seeking to influence policies during their formation and debate, and select attendance at key governance events. Key points of influence are:

  • ICANN: The i2Coalition attends ICANN meetings. The i2Coalition long-range goal for participation in ICANN is to broaden the number of voices participating in the ICANN decision-making process to ensure that this critical piece of Internet infrastructure continues to function in a reliable and innovative manner. The i2Coalition plans to attend two out of three yearly ICANN meetings.
  • IGF: The i2Coalition attends the recent IGF meetings. The i2Coalition long-range goal for participation in the IGF is twofold: to participate in IGF discussions of issues that affect infrastructure providers; and ensure that the IGF remains a robust, and relevant, place for participants in the multistakeholder model to openly debate issues with a goal of creating real-world solutions to those issues. In addition, the i2Coalition is exploring ways to make the US IGF relevant by working with key organizers on agenda and funding issues.
  • ITU: The i2Coalition believes that one of the largest threats to the multistakeholder model lies in proposals to increase the regulatory authority of the ITU. The i2Coalition strongly supports the position that the ITU serves a unique purpose within the communications infrastructure, and that expansion of this purpose is not necessary.
  • WSIS: The UN’s WSIS review process comes to a conclusion in 2014. The i2Coalition believes that the WSIS review provides a significant opportunity to support the iStars organizations in their continued support of Internet infrastructure.
  • U.S. Trade: The i2Coalition supports the U.S. government’s strong advocacy of the multistakeholder model. The group has been asked by both the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and other advocacy organizations to join a USTR “Industry Trade Advisory Council.”

Want to work with us on Trade Policy? Join the i2Coalition and our ICANN Committee.

Recent Updates In Internet Governance

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