Internet governance

Internet governance

Policies and mechanisms for Internet governance have been topics of heated debate between many different Internet stakeholders, some of whom have very different visions for how and indeed whether the Internet should facilitate free communication of ideas and information.


The definition of Internet governance has been contested by differing groups across political and ideological lines. One of the key debates centers around the authority and participation of certain actors, such as national governments and corporate entities, to play a role in the Internet's governance.

A Working Group established after a United Nations-initiated World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) proposed the following definition of Internet governance as part of its June 2005 report::"Internet governance is the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet." [WGIG (2005), p.4. Available at:]

Law professor Yochai Benkler developed a framework for conceptualizing the idea of Internet governance through the idea of three "layers" of governance: the "physical infrastructure" layer through which information travels; the "code" or "logical" layer that controls the infrastructure; and the "content" layer, which contains the information that runs through the network. [Yochai Benkler, "From Consumers to Users: Shifting the Deeper Structures of Regulation Towards Sustainable Commons and User Access", 52 Fed. Comm. L.J. 561, (2000).]


To understand how the Internet is run today, it is necessary to know some of the key milestones of Internet governance.

The original ARPANET, one of the components which eventually evolved into the Internet, connected four Universities: University of California Los Angeles, University of California Santa Barbara , Stanford Research Institute and Utah University. The IMPs, interface minicomputers, were built in 1969 by Bolt, Beranek and Newman under a proposal by the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. By 1973 it connected many more systems and included satellite links to Hawaii and Scandinavia, and a further link from Norway to London. ARPANET continued to grow in size, becoming more a utility than a research project. For this reason in 1975 it was transferred to the US Defense Communications Agency.

During the development of ARPANET, a numbered series of Request for Comments (RFCs) memos documented technical decisions and methods of working as they evolved. The standards of today's Internet are still documented by RFCs, produced through the very process which evolved on ARPANET.

Outside of the USA the dominant technology was X.25. The International Packet Switched Service, created in 1978, used X.25 and extended to Europe, Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, and the USA. It allowed individual users and companies to connect to a variety of mainframe systems, including Compuserve. Between 1979 and 1984, an approach known as Unix to Unix Copy Program grew to connect 940 hosts, using methods like X.25 links, ARPANET connections, and leased lines. Usenet News, a distributed discussion system, was a major use of UUCP.

The Internet protocol suite, developed between 1973 and 1977 with funding from ARPA, was intended to hide the differences between different underlying networks and allow many different applications to be used over the same network.

RFC 801 describes how the US Department of Defense organized the replacement of ARPANET's Network Control Program by the new Internet Protocol in January 1983. In the same year, the military systems were removed to a distinct MILNET, and the Domain Name System was invented to manage the names and addresses of computers on the "ARPA Internet". The familiar top-level domains .gov, .mil, .edu, .org, .net, .com, and .int, and the two-letter country code top-level domains were deployed in 1984.

Between 1984 and 1986 the US National Science Foundation created the NSFNET backbone, using TCP/IP, to connect their supercomputing centers. The combined network became widely known as the Internet.

By the end of 1989 Australia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom had connected to the Internet, which now contained over 160,000 hosts.

In 1990, ARPANET formally shut down, and in 1991 the NSF dropped its restrictions on commercial use of its part of the Internet. Commercial network providers began to interconnect, extending the Internet.

Today almost all Internet infrastructure is provided and owned by the private sector. Traffic is exchanged between these networks, at major interconnect points, in accordance with established Internet standards and commercial agreements.


In 1979 the Internet Configuration Control Board was founded by DARPA to oversee the network's development. In 1984 it was renamed the Internet Advisory Board (IAB), and in 1986 it became the Internet Activities Board.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) was formed in 1986 by the US Government to develop and promote Internet standards. It initially consisted of researchers, but by the end of the year participation was open to anyone, and its business was largely carried on by email.

From the early days of the network until his death in 1998, Jon Postel oversaw address allocation and other Internet protocol numbering and assignments in his capacity as Director of the Computer Networks Division at the Information Sciences Institute of the the University of Southern California, under a contract from the DoD. This role eventually became known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), and as it expanded to include management of the global Domain Name System (DNS) root servers, a small organization grew. Postel also served as RFC Editor.

Allocation of IP addresses was delegated to four Regional Internet Registries (RIRs):
*American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) for North America
*Réseaux IP Européens - Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) for Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia
*Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) for Asia and the Pacific region
*Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC) for Latin America and the Caribbean regionIn 2004 a new RIR, AfriNIC, was created to manage allocations for Africa.

After Jon Postel's death in 1998, the IANA function was taken over by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a newly created Californian non-profit corporation, set up in September 1998 by the US Government and awarded a contract by the US Department of Commerce. Initially two board members were elected by the Internet community at large, though this was changed by the rest of the board in 2002 in a thinly attended public meeting in Accra, in Ghana.

In 1992 the Internet Society (ISOC) was founded, with a mission to "assure the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world". Its members include individuals (anyone may join) as well as corporations, organizations, governments, and universities. The IAB was renamed the Internet "Architecture" Board, and became part of ISOC. The Internet Engineering Task Force also came under the ISOC umbrella. The IETF is currently overseen by the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), and longer term research is carried on by the Internet Research Task Force and overseen by the Internet Research Steering Group.

In 2002, a restructuring of the Internet Society gave more control to its corporate members.

At the first World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva 2003 the topic of Internet governance was put on the table. Since no general agreement existed even on the definition of what comprised Internet governance, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan set up a Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) to clarify the issues and report before the second part of the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis 2005. After much controversial debate, participants agreed on a compromise to allow for wider international debate on the policy principles. They agreed to establish an Internet Governance Forum, to be convened by United Nations Secretary General before the end of the second quarter of the year 2006. The Greek government volunteered to host the first such meeting.


The position of the US Department of Commerce as the controller of the Internet gradually attracted criticism from those who felt that its control should reflect its international nature. A hands-off approach by the DoC helped contain this criticism.

When the IANA functions were handed to a new US non-profit Corporation called ICANN, controversy increased. ICANN's decision-making process was criticised by some observers as being secretive and unaccountable. When the directors' posts which had previously been elected by the "at-large" community of Internet users were abolished, some feared the worst. ICANN stated that they were merely streamlining decision-making processes, and developing a structure suitable for the modern Internet.

Other areas of controversy included the creation and control of generic top-level domains (.com, .org, and possible new ones, such as .biz or .xxx), the control of country-code domains, recent proposals for a large increase in ICANN's budget and responsibilities, and a proposed "domain tax" to pay for the increase.

There were also suggestions that individual governments should have more control, or that the International Telecommunication Union or the United Nations should have a role in Internet governance.

ee also

Internet bodies

*IANA - the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority
*ICANN - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
*IETF - the Internet Engineering Task Force
*ISOC - the Internet Society
*Number Resource Organization
*RIRs - Regional Internet Registries

United Nations bodies

*Internet Governance Forum
*World Summit on the Information Society
*Working Group on Internet Governance

Relevant books and articles

*History of the Internet
* [ The Information Society Library] by Jovan Kurbalija, Ed Gelbstein and Stefano Baldi, DiploFoundation 2003. The series also include a comprehensive study of infrastructural, legal, economic, developmental and socio-cultural aspects of internet governance. []

Training Programs

[ Internet Governance Capacity Building Program] by DiploFoundation began as a pilot project in 2005 to develop into a full fledged program combing training, research and community building activities. The programme among many things empowers participants with practical skills to participate proactively in the global internet governance debate.

Diplo's Capacity Building is divided into three phases: phase one covers a background course divided in 4 baskets: Infrastructure and Standardisation Basket, Legal Basket, Economic Basket, and Socio-Cultural Basket.

Phase two of the programme gives the opportunity to selected participants to expand their research skills in various research projects related to IG.

The third phase is the last one and ensure Fellowships allocation to successful participants in both phases. The fellowships includes attending IG events mainly IGF.

DiploFoundation participated in all the IGF Athens 2006 and IGF Rio 2007 with two delegations including some of the programme successful participants and associates from all over the world.


External links

* [ Internet Governance Project]
* [ IAB]
* [ IETF]
* [ IRTF]
* [ ISOC]
* [ "The Politics and Issues of Internet Governance"] , Milton L. Mueller - April 2007, analyse from the Institute of research and debate on Governance
* [ ICANN - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers]
* [ Net Dialogue]
* [ World Summit on the Information Society]
* [ Working Group on Internet Governance]
* [ CircleID: Internet Governance]
* [ ICANN is becoming open]
* [ Discover IG basic terminology through a crossroad]

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