The GovLab Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance: Issue 21

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 21, April 4, 2014 can be found here.

This week’s highlights:

  • ICANN 49 had as one of its focus topics the IANA transition, for which ICANN presented a framework of each of the IANA functions, as well as the actors who create policy for those functions, as well as the actors that actually implement those function, and finally the actors that ensure the accountability and oversight for those functions. This transition framework has prompted a wide range of discussion regarding the roles of different actors around the IANA functions, and in particular the role of ICANN.
  • With the NETMundial Meeting in Brazil fast approaching (it begins on April 23rd), a variety of commentators have published reports calling for specific topics and issues to be focused on in the meeting agenda. In particular, there is a widespread desire to separate principles from practice, so that discussions are not just theoretical but also focus on the real concerns of real actors.
  • Fadi Chehadé, President of ICANN, Lawrence Strickling, NTIA Administrator, and some other leaders in the Internet governance space testified this week in front of the U.S. House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, presenting a wide range of viewpoints on the NTIA announcement from March 14th.
  • There are several high-level groups currently working on new Internet and broadband-related legislation, most notably the EU which is pushing for a new data privacy law that covers all of its member states, and the UN, which recently published a report overviewing U.S. surveillance practices in light of U.S. human rights commitments.


Berkens, Michael. Quick Poll: Which New gTLD Will Be The 1st To Hit 100K Registrations? The Domains. April 1, 2014.

  • There are now “414,000 new gTLD domain names registered.” The top three registration-generating TLDs at present are .guru (with 47,000 registrations), followed by .berlin (43,000) and .photography (30,000).

Internet Governance

Ashton-Hart, Nick. Internet Governance: What Does It Mean, Anyway? CircleID. March 28, 2014.

  • Ashton-Hart discusses the lack of agreement around what “Internet governance” means, and lays out a proposal suggesting that “Internet Governance doesn’t have anything to do with the content that the Internet carries.” His proposal offers four IG principles: “the network and the data that it carries are in fact (and are to be treated as) entirely separate at the level of policy . . . no stakeholder may take measures that compromise the ability of the network to connect the greatest number of users at the lowest cost and as efficiently as possible . . . the management of, and access to, data that traverses the network is not a subject of international Internet Governance . . .[and] [r]egulating the Internet, or technology more generally, cannot solve social problems.”

Borden, Karl. Get Ready for the Internet Robber Barons. The Wall Street Journal. April 1, 2014.

  • Borden compares the German “robber barons” of the 13th century who controlled the Rhine River with the possibility that the United Nations ends up in charge of the Internet and levying taxes on the Internet (or, more obscurely, “fees”). He argues that, in the wake of the NTIA announcement, should democratic “government control” be absent from Internet governance, higher fees and higher transaction costs will be an inevitable development for all Internet users.

Doctorow, Cory. The Internet Should Be Treated as a Utility: Susan Crawford. Boing Boing. April 1, 2014.

  • America’s “best commentator on network policy and network neutrality,” Susan Crawford, sits down with Ezra Klein to argue for treating Internet access as a utility. In particular, Crawford explains recent attacks on net neutrality, noting the D.C. Circuit court’s recent ruling on the subject. She summarized the court’s message to the FCC as one implying that we cannot treat Internet access as a “luxury” free from standard regulation while also having “rules about keeping this permissionless internet open.”

Ensuring the Security, Stability, Resilience, and Freedom of the Global Internet. Energy & Commerce Committee, US House of Representatives. April 2, 2014.

  • On Wednesday, ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehadé, NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling, Wiley Rein partner David A. Gross, NetChoice Executive Director Steve DelBianco, and Carolina Rossini of the New America Foundation each testified in front of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. The hearing focused on the NTIA announcement to transition its oversight of the IANA functions, and presented a range of viewpoints, in particular showing a divide between US Republicans and Democrats on the issue.

Gillwald, Alison. Reflections for the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar. CGCS Media Wire. March 31, 2014.

  • Reflecting on the work of Research ICT Africa and more generally on the low level of participation from African nations in Internet governance issues, Gillwald highlights some probable explanations, including the fact that African countries seem more comfortable participating in IG through “national sovereign state membership based organizations,” thus perpetuating the “classical intergovernmental approach to global telecommunications governance.” Gillwald, does, however, note that the IG agenda for African countries is far from defined and points readers to paper mapping “multistakeholderism in the system of internet governance and draw out the largely negative outcomes for Africa” and upcoming work to be conducted with the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, which will “undertake a more systematic and comprehensive historical reconstruction and institutional analysis of internet governance in Africa” and “attempt a demand side survey of individuals active in internet governance at any level, to understand the constraints for participation and influence within the system of internet governance and what opportunities exist to make the system more transparent, accountable and inclusive.”

Hill, Richard. “Ist” vs. “Soll”: the Dark Side of the Internet. CGCS Media Wire. April 1, 2014.

  • Hill argues that when “Internet governance” is understood as concerning “technical decisions” that are “purportedly ‘neutral’”, these decisions can lead to “social injustice as technology architecture… increasingly determine social, economic, cultural, and political relationship and processes”. Hill criticizes those who think that, within the multistakeholder model, different stakeholders should have different and exclusive responsibilities –he suggests that this gives power to actors allowing them to make decisions disregarding the public interest. In particular Hill points to the Internet as a “design accident” which has historically experienced “unilateral assertion of power by the US government” as embodying narratives that maintain an unfair status quo.

IANA Transition Testimony and Related Material. NTIA. April 2, 2014.

  • This page links to three pieces of content related to the IANA transition: Lawrence Strickling’s testimony before the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on Wednesday; myths and facts about the NTIA announcement (e.g., that the U.S. “controls” the Internet); and IANA functions and related root zone management transition questions and answers.

Internet Governance Should Adapt to Need. People’s Daily Online. April 2, 2014.

  • This translated article from the Chinese newspaper People’s Daily questions the sincerity of the NTIA announcement to relinquish oversight of the IANA functions, in particular whether “the U.S. can restrain its impulse to impose its norms on the world”. It argues that “the transfer of ICANN’s supervisory role should be broad in extent” and that the ability to innovate is a critical concern for the trajectory of Internet governance going forward.

Internet transition to IPv6 accelerating. March 28, 2014.

  • IPv6 adoption is set to accelerate by the end of this year to ten percent “of all global Internet traffic to Google, Facebook, and Yahoo!” This is an increase from the three percent currently.

Kanter, James. A Nudge on Digital Privacy Law From E.U. Official. New York Times. April 1, 2014.

  • Peter Hustinx, “the top data protection official for the European Union” called this week for “an overhaul of [the EU’s] electronic privacy laws by the end of this year”. Part of the overhaul includes greater emphasis on net neutrality, as well as a provision for the “right to erasure”, allowing users to “demand that data be scrubbed from websites”. Hustinx also suggests that European governments synchronize their approach with the American government.

McCarthy, Kieren. What the US Government Said About IANA in Singapore. CircleID. March 26, 2014.

  • In this post McCarthy takes stock of everything that Lawrence Strickling (Administrator of the NTIA) and Fiona Alexander (NTIA Associate Administrator) said about the NTIA transition from its IANA oversight role at ICANN 49 in Singapore. Key messages include that “the US government’s role in IANA is purely clerical”; that the principles that the IANA transition must adhere to are 1) supporting of the multistakeholder model, 2) maintaining the security, stability, and resiliency of the DNS, 3) meeting the needs and expectations of global customers of the IANA services, and 4) maintaining the openness of the Internet; that governments cannot dominate the process; that the process should focus on IANA’s “customers”; that US domestic politics are a factor; and that the “bigger picture is developing countries and the multistakeholder process”.

Mitnick, Drew, and Brown, Deborah. UN Human Rights Committee Calls for U.S. Surveillance Reform. Access Now. April 1, 2014.

  • Last week the UN Human Rights Committee published a report as part of an “overall review of civil and political rights in the U.S. in accordance with [the U.S.’] treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Politics Rights (ICCPR)” in which it primarily focused on US surveillance practices via the NSA and the implications of such activity on global human rights. In particular, the report calls on the U.S. to “protect rights of non-U.S. persons”, and Access Now points to the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance as a framework for such digital privacy-based rights.

Mueller, Milton. Mapping Out the IANA Transition. Internet Governance Project. March 27, 2014.

  • Mueller highlights New Zealand country code registry InternetNZ’s recent mapping of “just what activities and functions are part of current governance arrangements for the domain name system.” The mapping shows which tasks ICANN, the NTIA, Verisign and other major players handle, and is useful tool for comprehending the IANA transition. The document can be found here.

Schulz, Wolfgang. Analyzing Foreign Policies of the Internet: Problems of Legitimacy and Knowledge in Collaborative Lawmaking. CGCS Media Wire. March 31, 2014.

  • Schulz describes the Brazilian Marco Civil, Brazil’s “Internet law”, arguing that the law is significant for how it “reconstructs and seeks to change elements of legitimacy” through participation, and also significant for the knowledge it produces in terms of assessing the impact of the bill itself. Schulz concludes “multistakeholderism” requires both theoretical and empirical analysis.

Shankland, Stephen. US Official: The Internet Can Stand on its Own Now (Q&A). CNET. March 31, 2014.

  • Shankland interviews Lawrence Strickling, the NTIA Administrator, in a discussion that focuses on ICANN’s maturity as an organization, how Edward Snowden may have catalyzed the recent NTIA announcement, what exactly the Department of Commerce’s role is in overseeing ICANN, and also Strickling’s views on ICANN’s New gTLD Program.

Thune, Rubio Demand Answers from Administration on Internet Transition. U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation. April 2, 2014.

  • This letter from U.S. Senators John Thune, Marco Rubio, and 33 other Senate Republicans to Lawrence Strickling of the NTIA seeks clarification on the NTIA’s announcement that it intends to relinquish responsibility over IANA. In particular, it asks about the legality of the NTIA’s decision, the steps the NTIA plans to take itself in the transition plan, how NTIA will evaluate the eventual transition plan, and how the plan itself takes into account and is in America’s “national interest”.

Williams, Carol J. Turkish High Court Rules Twitter Ban Illegal, Orders Access Restored. Los Angeles Times. April 2, 2014.

  • The Turkish Constitutional Court this week ruled that the Turkish government’s ban on access to Twitter “violates citizens’ right to free expression” and that access should be “immediately restored”. However, the ban remains in effect with “[Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan’s ministers claiming a 30-day period to prepare a response to the earlier ruling”.

Zmikewski, Earl. Turkish Internet Censorship Takes a New Turn. Renesys. March 30, 2014.

  • This piece documents recent efforts in Turkey by TurkTelecom to “hijack[] the IP address space of public DNS resolvers like those of Google” to prevent queries from reaching destinations outside the country. Instead, traffic is being rerouted within Turkey making it so “Turkish Internet users, like those in China operating behind the Great Firewall cannot be sure who is providing answers to their DNS queries.”

Internet Technology

Hruska, Joel. Facebook Details its Plans to Bring Drone Internet Access to the Masses –But Will Monopolistic Telcos Stand Idly By? Extreme Tech. April 2, 2014.

  • Facebook earlier this month announced a plan for “drone-based global Internet coverage” and believes that drones are a better technology than balloons (such as those used by Google’s Project Loom). Facebook’s drone Internet-access project is intended to solve the problem of limited Internet access around the globe, although Hruska points out that there has been no discussion of yet around a) how telecoms companies will react and b) how governments will apply censorship to such a mode of Internet service provision.

Inglis, Jeff. Physicists are Building an NSA-Proof Internet. Global Post. April 2, 2014.

  • Scientists are looking for a “solution for a truly private, tamper-free digital communication” mechanism. A solution may exist in quantum physics, based specifically in the concept of “entanglement”. Entangled photons will behave in accordance and relation to each other –a change in one produces a change in the other. Hence a quantum communications medium would reveal if any communications were ever disturbed –but this is a challenge because communications today send electrons, not photons, and there is a need for further research in this area.

Papers & Reports

Lim, Hae-in et al. Netizen Report: Telecom Markets in Mexico Smack of Authoritarian Past. Global Voices Advocacy. April 2, 2014.

  • This Netizen Report (published weekly) by Global Voices Advocacy provides “an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.” This week’s highlights include: in Mexico, the President is pushing to pass telecommunications reforms that would “break up Mexico’s notorious telecommunications and broadcast monopolies” and “preclude protections for net neutrality”; in Costa Rica, the Supreme Court is pushing to shield citizen journalists from “prosecutorial abuses of surveillance”; in Nigeria, civil conflict has destroyed telecom infrastructure and shut down communications in some areas; in Pakistan, the government has announced that SIM card vendors need to use a biometric identity verification system; and Russian free speech activists are bypassing censorship by using a “network of mirrors” of blocked sites.

Musiani, Francesca, and Pohle, Julia. NETMundial: Only a Landmark Event if ‘Digital Cold War’ Rhetoric Abandoned. Internet Policy Review. March 27, 2014.

  • Musiani and Phole argue that recent Internet governance debates are characterized by a “digital cold war” rhetoric in which various nuanced (and importantly so) topics and perspectives are oversimplified into two “camps” –one in favor of a “free, open, human-rights based” Internet, the other in favor of “the extension of national sovereignty on cyberspace”. The authors argue that this simplification is dangerous because it fails to “recognize the legitimate concerns of countries” mainly from the developing world whose objectives and desires may require greater sovereign control, but for reasons other than surveillance or censorship, although such alternate reasons are drowned out by the “digital cold war” debates. They argue, therefore, that the upcoming NETMundial meeting needs to recognize these differences in context around the world and not preclude meaningful discussion by focusing only on larger –but often imprecise—debates.

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