Press "Enter" to skip to content

What Is Internet Governance? (and why should we care?)



i i'm david alan grier i'm the immediate past president of the I Triple E Computer Society I'm here today to give a quick talk on the subject of Internet governance how the internet is controlled and governed we'll talk about the institutions involved the roles they have and most importantly how that sense of governance has evolved and how it is evolving into the future part of the confusion over Internet governance comes from the fact that we often assume that governance is putting one person or one institution in charge of something in fact it's a much more sophisticated and nuanced activity it's the process of establishing institutions and establishing rules to delineate the power of these institutions and the responsibilities of these institutions we often associate this kind of work with a single document like the United States Constitution but it doesn't need to be done that way the United Kingdom provides us an example of a governance system that does not have a single document or a single Constitution I know some people think the Magna Carta is the constitution of the UK but that's been repealed step-by-step the Parliament of the United Kingdom has the power to establish new government organisations and also to define the powers of those organisations and to limit their actions they have a step-by-step constitution Internet Governance is evolving in a similar way ultimately Internet Governance is being devolved from ARPA the organization now known as DARPA but was originally called the Advanced Research Projects Agency this agency supported much of the early development of Internet technology it organized a governance structure that was informal it was done by a handful of researchers and graduate students who were scattered around the network this informal group took responsibility for the net how it would develop what technology would be used what standards would be required of any site many of these graduate students became a key leaders of the network and a few still hold senior positions in the network infrastructure among the things done by this group was the setting of technical standards they used a method that has come to be called the RFC process request for comment it was started in 1969 the first RFC was written by Steve Crocker who he is now the chairman of the board of ICANN it over the years has evolved into a consensual standards process really no different from the process used by ANSI or the I Triple E or any other major standards body this standards setting process was the first thing to devolve from ARPA the first to leave the fold it was given to the internet Engineering Task Force which was created in 1992 as the internet started to form this group the internet Engineering Task Force is actually part of the Internet Society which is an independent organization not part of any government structure the task force handles the major internet standards including such things as I P v6 it will likely to remain an independent organization just as ANSI and ISO remain independent standard bodies in their fields well you may ask if the Internet Society has control over standards why doesn't it control all of the internet part of the answer to that question comes from the role of Internet service providers these are private companies incorporated in countries they follow the internet Engineering Task Force standards but they're not responsible to that organization they are responsible to the kinds of institutions that hold corporations responsible these institutions include the collected shareholders the countries and the national law in which they operate national communications ministries as well as international agreements between countries these organizations are generally bound by licenses and contracts and things called acceptable use agreements this world of national and corporate governance is where the issue of net neutrality everyone having the same access to the same services will be resolved to operate these Internet service providers need information from the one part of Internet operations that is still evolving its own sense of governance that is the domain name system the domain name system tracks the location of everything on the internet and provides information on how a message can go from one site to another this system is currently operated by the internet corporation on Assigned Names and numbers a California organization that works under contract to the United States government ICANN was formed in 1997 and 1998 it was a bit of a compromise institution for the time technically it operates under contract with the NTIA which stands for National Telecommunications and Information Administration this is part of the Department of Commerce that contract is set to expire on September 30th 2015 and the US government is willing to let that contract expire and let I can't operate on its own provided that I can creates an appropriate form of governance this issue is the one currently under debate how to govern I can the US government has instructed I can to build a governance structure that involves this process would include four groups representatives of Nations representatives of private companies with a stake in the internet representatives of civil society who are concerned about the effects of the internet and representatives of technologists or engineers or scientists this is often called the epistemic community the alternative to the multi-stakeholder approaches the statist approach the central organization in that process would be the International Telecommunications Union of the United Nations the representatives on this organization are all representatives of Nations the ITU proposed itself in December 2012 and got strong national support from its members over the coming year we will see if we can resolve the multi-stakeholder approach which I can is pursuing with the statist approach which the International Telecommunications Union wants there are many more issues that shape internet governance but let's do a quick review of the major institutions involved standards for the Internet itself are handled by the internet Engineering Task Force the communication corporations the ISP providers are governed by their own laws and by national laws and national telecommunications agencies the domain name system particularly the root of that system is handled by ICANN and that's the key part that is in flux there are other groups involved as well HTML standards which are vital to the web are handled by the wc3 group security standards reside in a variety of organizations but they are being coordinated by the international standards organization and of course there are several other institutions involved in controlling the operations of the internet as we have seen there are many different groups involved in Internet governance each has their own responsibility in the coming year we may see some changes amongst those groups and amongst the responsibilities they hold but it will be one step one step of this is david alan grier take care you you

2 Comments

  1. MrGarfield2288
    MrGarfield2288 May 23, 2019

    thanks, revised from my int governance paper this morning !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *