The Selected Curation of Articles on Net-governance (the SCAN) is a weekly digest on internet governance news, reports, and events produced by the Governance Lab @NYU (the GovLab) as part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project. The SCAN is cross-posted weekly from the GovLab on the Internet Policy Observatory. The original posting of the GovLab SCAN- Issue 51, November 14, 2014 can be found here.
This week’s highlights:
- The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference concluded last week. No major resolutions were passed that would give the ITU a greater role in regulating the non-technical aspects of the Internet. Significantly, an amended resolution “will increase the ITU’s involvement in the Internet’s global development and the transition of Internet governance toward participation by all stakeholders”.
- President Obama this week made an official announcement regarding net neutrality, urging the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create new rules for a “free and open Internet”, including: “no blocking”, “no throttling”, “increased transparency”, and “no paid prioritization”.
- The NETmundial Initiative has released its first blog post describing ways to join the discussion and get involved in available opportunities.
Corwin, Philip S. Accountability Group Charter Sets the Bar Too Low. CircleID. November 10, 2014.
- Last week, the ICANN released the proposed Charter for the Enhancing ICANN Accountability Cross Community Working Group (CCWG) that is responsible for ICANN’s “Accountability Enhancement” process. The Charter contains two Work Streams: one “focused on mechanisms enhancing ICANN accountability that must be in place or committed to within the time frame of the IANA Stewardship Transition”, the other “focused on addressing accountability topics for which a timeline for developing solutions and full implementation may extend beyond the IANA Stewardship Transition.” Corwin argues that the Charter does not adequately empower the CCWG to address the breadth of accountability concerns surrounding the IANA Stewardship Transition. Corwin argues that the Charter’s major deficiencies are: “letting the arguably unrealistic goal of meeting a September 2015 deadline for transition of the IANA functions dominate its proposed timeline and approach to required deliverables”; “adopting a dual work stream approach that almost surely puts off the major accountability issues and decisions until after the IANA transition takes place, at which point the community’s unity may well dissipate and its leverage vis-à-vis ICANN will be permanently diluted”; and “preserving the ability of ICANN’s Board to reject the most important accountability reforms by simply remaining intransigent.”
ICANN Draft Five-Year Operating Plan. ICANN.org. November 11, 2014.
- ICANN is introducing “the addition of Five-Year Operating Plan to its planning process”. The Five-Year Operating plan includes “five-year planning calendar, strategic goals with corresponding key performance indicators, dependencies, five-year phasing, and list of portfolios; and five-year financial model.” ICANN is seeking public comment on the ICANN Draft Five-Year Operating Plan Version 1 (FY2016-FY2020). The public comment period begins today, Monday, 11 November 2014 for a total of 55 days to complete on Monday, 5 January 2015.
boyd, danah. Net Neutrality is sooo much more than access to the “tubes”….Medium. November 11, 2014
- In this blog post, boyd uses the current debate surrounding net neutrality to highlight other threats to a free and open Internet. boyd argues, “ Net neutrality is such an obvious pillar that I still can’t believe that we’re debating it. But what about the broader decline in interoperability? What about the international conversations about creating separate internets?” As an example, boyd highlights her experience with using a small email service provider. Her emails frequently go to spam folders because they do not come from big domain name providers, which indicates that true interoperability has started to deteriorate. This problem is particularly acute in developing countries like Ghana and Nigeria, where users have been restricted from accessing many American websites. According to boyd, “Whole populations are excluded from sending mail through certain webmail services because it’s assumed that they’re all spammers, scammers, phishers, and other ‘bad’ internet users.” boyd emphasizes that it is critical to think beyond issues like net neutrality and consider equality at the software layer as well.
Dickinson, Samantha. How will internet governance change after the ITU conference? The Guardian.November 7, 2014.
- Dickinson observes that no major Internet governance measures emerged as a result of the recent ITU Plenipotentiary Conference. At the ITU Conference, participants considered how technology can be used to combat the spread of viruses like Ebola, and how global flight tracking technology can be improved in the wake of Malaysian Flight MH270. Although there were some debates regarding Crimea and Palestine’s membership in the ITU, no member states pushed for an official vote. Dickinson points out that the Conference involved many trade offs; for example, while “the US gave up its demand to have non-governmental groups invited into ITU’s council working groups, which were designed to be for governments only”, “other states withdrew proposals about online privacy, cybersecurity and other internet proposals.”
Farivar, Cyrus. Judge sides with ICANN: Plaintiffs can’t take all of Iran’s domain names. ArsTechnica. November 13, 2014.
- A new development in a decade-long case regarding the seizure of Iran’s country-code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), .IR, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., “has ruled that an entire country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) cannot be transferred as part of a civil judgement to collect Iranian state assets in the wake of a terrorism attack ‘because they are not property subject to attachment under District of Columbia law.’” According to the judge, “the ccTLDs exist only as they are made operational by the ccTLD managers that administer the registries of second level domain names within them and by the parties that cause the ccTLDs to be listed on the root zone file. A ccTLD, like a domain name, cannot be conceptualized apart from the services provided by these parties.”
Fitzgerald, Drew. U.N. Telecom Summit Dodges Internet Controversy. The Wall Street Journal. November 7, 2014
- According to Fitzgerald, at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, South Korea, delegates “agreed to disagree” by leaving the agency’s constitution and purview unchanged. This resulted in a relatively uncontroversial meeting compared to the last ITU-sponsored meeting in Dubai, where U.S. and a group of other states walked out of the conference to protest proposed increases in regulatory power for the UN-based agency. This time, there were no changes made to the ITU’s charter, meaning that “the organization has no mandate to write rules for the Internet.”
Friedman, Thomas L. Makers and Breakers. The New York Times. November 8, 2014.
- Friedman argues that a “great geopolitical struggle in the world today” is “the struggle between ‘makers’ and ‘breakers’ on the Internet.” Regarding “makers”, Friedman points out that, “thanks to the Internet, you can raise capital, sell goods or services and discover collaborators and customers globally more easily than ever.” Regarding “breakers”, Friedman observes that “if you want to break something or someone, or break into somewhere that is encrypted, and collaborate with other bad guys, you can recruit and operate today with less money, greater ease and greater reach than ever before.” Friedman goes on to discuss the relationship between intelligence agencies and Internet goods and services providers (referring to the Financial Times article on ISIS and its relationship with the Internet) and argues that this “will be an important debate, because this same free, open command and control system is enabling the makers to collaborate like never before, too.”
Germany, Brazil Push the UN to Be Tougher on Cyber-Spying. NDTV. November 7, 2014.
- Germany and Brazil are “pushing the United Nations to be tougher on spying by beefing up an earlier U.N. resolution raising concerns that mass surveillance, interception of digital communications and personal data collection could harm human rights.” The follow-up to this earlier resolution now includes a focus on metadata. The draft also “asks the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council to consider appointing a special rapporteur to identify and clarify standards protecting privacy rights.” The draft will be voted on by the U.N. General Assembly’s Third Committee later this month.
ITU and Internet Society collaborate to combat spam. Internet Society. November 6, 2014.
- The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Internet Society have signed an agreement to “collaborate on combating the global problem of spam,” an issue that now accounts for 80% of global email traffic. Under this agreement, both parties will identify ways to build long-term capacity to address spam in developing countries. The organizations will 1) facilitate “greater regional access to technical experts” regarding anti-spam knowledge and experience, 2) provide “educational training and information on effective anti-spam policies, technical solutions, and operational requirements,” and 3) document best practices.
Join the NETmundial Initiative’s Discussion. NETmundial Initiative. November 13, 2014.
- This first blog post by the NETmundial Initiative (“a multistakeholder Initiative to energize bottom-up, collaborative solutions in a distributed Internet governance ecosystem”) describes ways that the global Internet community can “join the discussion and get involved in the opportunities available at this time”, including: making a nomination for the Coordination Council (nominations form here; submitted nominations here), contributing proposals and ideas (contributions form here; submitted contributionshere), embracing the NETmundial Principles (signature form here; submitted signatures here), and providing guidance on the NETmundial Solutions Map (survey form here).
Lee, Xiaodong, Helen Margetts, and Anil Menon. The future of the Internet: What’s next for the World Wide Web? Al Arabiya News. November 10, 2014.
- The authors point out that the growth and spread of the Internet has enabled a huge amount of social innovation and development, but that the same growth forces us to ask questions including: “as we become ever-more reliant on online tools and services, who should protect and regulate the Internet itself?”; “as web-enabled devices take an ever-more prominent role in our societies, who should govern and protect the infrastructure upon which they rely?”; “will this issue of governance hinder the development and adoption of Internet technologies?”; and “what opportunities and problems will be presented by this new chapter of our technological history, both for governments and individuals?” The authors briefly explore answers to these questions in the remainder of the article.
Lim, James. ITU Steps Closer to Internet Governance, Though Multistakeholderism Will Guide Policy.Bloomberg BNA. November 6, 2014.
- The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan saw the acceptance of “the U.S. government’s proposal for inclusion of all stakeholders in its future Internet-related decisions and policy actions”, and newly amended ITU resolutions “will increase the ITU’s involvement in the Internet’s global development and the transition of Internet governance toward participation by all stakeholders”. Additionally, the ITU adopted a new resolution that was proposed by South Korea, implementing the “Connect 2020” agenda of the Busan Declaration. This resolution sets global telecommunications/ICT goals and targets, and acts as a cornerstone of the ITU’s 2016-2019 Strategic Plan.
Lithuania’s ministry plans internet for everyone. The Baltic Course. October 28, 2014.
- The Lithuanian Ministry of Transport and Communications has stated that Lithuania is prepared for the New Generation Access Network Plan for 2014-2020, “which in terms of state intervention will provide the basic new generation broadband infrastructure in areas where no adequate broadband infrastructure was available before.” The goal of the national plan is to provide broadband access to all households, but not to fully cover all territory. By 2020, the plan aims to provide all Lithuanians with broadband access at speeds of 30 Mbps or above.
Mari, Angelica. Brazil leads creation of Internet governance initiative. ZDNet. November 10, 2014.
- Mari discusses the launch of the NETmundial Initiative, organized by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br), the World Economic Forum (WEF) and ICANN. The Initiative is described as a “meeting point”, “where stakeholders will be able to put ideas forward, discuss them and attract the support to make them reality if necessary.” Mari goes on to discuss Brazil’s role in global Internet governance, including the hosting of the NETmundial Meeting in April, and the passing of the Marco Civil (Brazilian’s “Internet Bill of Rights”) in the same month.
Net Neutrality: President Obama’s Plan for a Free and Open Internet. U.S. White House. November 10, 2014.
- This week, President Obama released a statement regarding net neutrality in the U.S. This White House page includes all relevant resources and supporting materials to Obama’s statement. Obama emphasized
that creating “a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online” is something that must be decided by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and suggests four main rules the FCC should enact: “no blocking”, “no throttling”, “increased transparency”, and “no paid prioritization”.
Timberg, Craig, and Nakashima, Ellen. U.S., European authorities strike against Internet’s black markets. The Washington Post. November 7, 2014.
- U.S. and European law enforcement agencies last week “announced the largest strike ever against the Internet’s thriving black markets, shutting down more than 400 sites and arresting 17 people for allegedly selling drugs, weapons and illegal services to anonymous buyers worldwide.” Timberg and Nakashima discuss the crackdown as focusing primarily on Tor, the anonymizing browser that is used to “protect users and the locations of servers” and surf the “Dark Web”, which has been targeted by “a coalition of Western law enforcement agencies”, and emphasize that the “Dark Web” does not conceal its users as was previously believed. Timberg and Nakashima conclude that such cooperative law enforcement efforts tend to reach only the places where governments have good diplomatic relations.
Walt, Stephen M. The Big Counterterrorism Counterfactual. Foreign policy. November 10, 2014.
- Walt discusses the current argument that robust encryption procedures by private companies is making it harder for organizations such as the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor online traffic, thereby aiding terrorists. Walt observes that “personal freedoms are hard to get back once lost,” and also that “there’s not much evidence that these surveillance activities are making us significantly safer.” He puts forth a counterfactual: “What would the United States, Great Britain, and other wealthy and powerful nations do if they didn’t have these vast surveillance powers?” He argues that the current counterterrorism efforts are “popular with government officials because it’s relatively easy, plays to our technological strengths, and doesn’t force us to make any significant foreign-policy changes.”
Wyatt, Edward. Communities Fight State Laws That Can Divide Broadband Access. The New York Times. November 9, 2014.
- In 19 states in the U.S., municipalities are limited or restricted from building or extending high-speed Internet service networks due to state laws. These laws are in place “to limit taxpayer exposure to projects that at times fail and for which there may be little demand” but often conflict with public interest. The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler, has said that the FCC can override these state laws because access to the Internet is in the public interest, a stance that has received heated debate. Supporters of these state laws argue that other issues such as roads and infrastructure are more pressing than fiber access, and also cite instances where municipalities have failed in their efforts, leaving taxpayers in debt.
Zamaneh, Radio. Iran to Launch More Selective Internet Censorship. Eurasia Review. November 10, 2014.
- The Iranian Ministry of Communications “announced on Sunday November 9 that within six months it will implement ‘smart filtering’ on the internet.” Smart filtering is “a more targeted form of censorship that blocks certain pages of a website rather than completely blocking the entire website.”
Network Operators Around the World Demonstrate Their Commitment to a Secure and Resilient Internet. Internet Society. November 6, 2014.
- Several network operators including CERNET, Comcast, and SURFnet have announced that they have implemented a set of recommendations called Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS). These recommendations, organized by Internet Society, “recognize the interdependent nature of the global routing system and integrate best current practices related to routing security and resilience.” Some of the expected actions taken by participating network operators include “preventing propagation of incorrect routing information, preventing traffic with spoofed IP addresses, and facilitating global operational communication and coordination between network operators.”
Winkler, Rolfe, and Pasztor, Andy. Elon Musk’s Next Mission: Internet Satellites. The Wall Street Journal. November 7, 2014.
- Elon Musk, a billionaire and entrepreneur, and Greg Wyler, a satellite-industry veteran, have discussed a venture to launch around 700 satellites, each weighing less than 250 pounds and costing approximately $1 million. Currently, the smallest satellites weigh 500 pounds and cost several million dollars each. Some past efforts to deliver telephone and Internet services via space have faced challenges due to limited users and high costs.
(The below includes both past and upcoming events. See The GovLab’s Master Events Calendar for more Internet Governance events)
Geneva Internet Conference – Internet Governance at a Crossroads. Geneva Internet Platform. November 18 – 19, 2014.
- The Geneva Internet Conference (GIC) will address “critical issues, gaps, and future developments in Internet governance (IG) and digital politics. The conference will provide a neutral and inclusive space for debates as it paves the way to 2015, building on the main events and developments in 2014, including announcement of the transition of the IANA oversight of Internet functions, NETmundial and the Internet Governance Forum.” See the program here.
Reforming Lifeline for the broadband era. American Enterprise Institute. November 12, 2014.
- This event included an address by FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn on “the issue of reforming the Lifeline program” (which has “significantly increased phone-service penetration rates since the 1980s”). The primary question was, “how can the program be optimized for the 21st century?” According to the event summary, “Clyburn outlined five avenues for reforming Lifeline: ensuring that subsidies are spent in ways that maximizes value, moving the responsibility of determining customer eligibility away from providers, encouraging broader customer participation, leveraging efficiencies from and coordinating enrollment with other federal programs, and encouraging public-private partnerships.” See the video recording here.