The GovLab Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance: Issue 26

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 26, May 16, 2014 can be found here.

This week’s highlights:

  • In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to move forward with new proposed “Open Internet” rules which run counter to the principle of net neutrality as they would allow content providers to pay Internet Service Providers for Internet “fast-lanes”. The ruling has created massive controversy and debate, with many arguing that the FCC should find a way to classify Internet Service Providers as “common carriers” –i.e. public utilities—so that net neutrality rules can be enforced upon them.
  • In Europe, the European Court of Justice has ruled that individuals have the right to ask search engines such as Google to remove search results to information about them that they do not want to have found. The ruling has generated criticism for creating greater possibilities for private censorship and for endangering freedom of expression online.
  • ICANN has closed the public comment period for the proposed IANA transition process and accompanying scoping document. Both documents have drawn criticism from ICANN’s community for ruling out possible arrangements and options and for being insufficiently open and inclusive to the opinions of all stakeholders.
  • The U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee has approved the Domain Openness through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act that will require the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to perform a study of the IANA transition before the transition can happen in September 2015.


Kuerbis, Brenden. ICANN’s Proposed IANA Transition Process and Scope Rebuffed. Internet Governance Project. May 13, 2014.

  • The public comment period for ICANN’s proposed IANA transition process and scoping document has concluded. Kuerbis points out that the comments received during the public comment period largely argue against the proposals made by ICANN in the initial draft documents. Kuerbis notes that, in particular, the comments show “widespread support for linking accountability concerns to the IANA transition”; “strong support for allowing structural separation to be in scope” (structural separation regards separating policy development from policy implementation by ICANN); “support for the IAB’s proposal to divide the functions into different processes” (there are eight distinct IANA functions); and “near unanimous reservations about the composition and role of ICANN’s proposed ‘steering group’”.

Namazi, Cyrus. Kick Starting DNS Industry Growth in Underserved Regions. ICANN Blog. May 14, 2014.

  • ICANN is “exploring ideas and strategies to help promote the DNS industry in regions that have typically been underserved”. As of April 16, 2014, there were 1010 ICANN-accredited Registrars, of which only seven are in Africa and fourteen are in the Middle East. In particular, ICANN is looking at “existing barriers to Registrar Accreditation and operation and considering ways that these challenges might be mitigated”. The report is here; public comment closes on June 13, 2014.

Internet Governance

Agur, Colin. Disclosure and Its Discontents: Protecting Privacy in a Time of Surveillance. CGCS Media Wire. May 9, 2014.

  • This piece discussed key takeaways from this year’s Milton Wolf Seminar held in Vienna, which brought together “an international mix of scholars and practitioners” to explore “how, in a time of increasing concerns about privacy and surveillance, diplomats, international organizations, the private sector, civil society, and the press can influence internet governance.” Highlights included a presentation on “the evolution of ‘privacy panics’ from the 19th century” and discussion on future solutions for better governance of global communication networks, which Agur stresses should focus on law, design and practices.

Berners-Lee, Tim. We Need a Magna Carta for the Internet. Huffington Post. May 6, 2014.

  • Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, gave one of the opening remarks at the NETmundial Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance in Såo Paulo in April, the text of which is re-published in this article. He argues that the technical development of Internet standards has followed an open and free model “where decisions are made in the public interest and based on technical merit”. In turn, he argues that as “the web has become an essential public utility”, we need to also “develop positive laws that protect and expand the rights of users to an open, free and universal web”. This is why he is asking Internet users to define a “Magna Carta for the Internet”.

Byrum, Greta. Love Your CSA? Then You Should Embrace Community-Supported Broadband. Slate, May 7, 2014.

  • In light of the proposed new FCC rules and the recent Time Warner-Comcast merger news, Byrum calls for the adoption of “community-supported broadband” – an innovative idea that mirrors community-supported agriculture initiatives found in most U.S. cities, which present “a model of cooperative investment that sidesteps massive agribusiness.” The keys, Byrum notes, are cooperation and scale. She outlines some emerging examples of such a model in places like Red Hook, Brooklyn, the New America Foundation, and the Free Network Foundation in Kansas City.

Cho, Anthony. To Tame the Digital Frontier. CGCS Media Wire. May 14, 2014.

  • Cho compares the current state of Internet governance to the “Wild West” of America when the country was first settled. Cho shows that the “digital frontier” is similar to this “Wild West” because the Internet is also “profit-driven, characterized by abuses of power and efforts at vigilante justice for the common man”. Taking this comparison further, Cho argues that just as “accessibility, reliability, and speed of transit and communication brought governance and accountability westwards” in the “Wild West”, the same principles hold for Internet governance: greater accessibility (connecting more users to the Internet), reliability (ensuring connectivity for users), and speed (deregulating bandwidth restrictions).

Committee Stands Up for Future of the Internet, Approves DOTCOM Act. Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. May 8, 2014.

  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee last week approved H.R. 4342, the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act, which requires the U.S. administration to allow for a Government Accountability office (GAO) to study the proposed transition of NTIA oversight over the IANA functions performed through ICANN. This GAO must complete the study before September 2015 and the study will inform whether the U.S. government “may take action to modify the U.S. role in the [Domain Name System]”.

Expert Panel Discussion on the Future of Cyber Governance. The Hague Institute for Global Justice. May 14, 2014.

  • This week the Hague Institute for Global Justice concluded a three-day conference on the future of Internet governance. The conference, which was part of the Institute’s Global Governance Reform Initiative, brought together a set of academics and practitioners from more than a dozen countries to discuss challenges in and policy recommendations for the global governance of the Internet. An audio recording of the public portion of this conference is available on the page. The video of the event ishere.

Greenwald, Glenn. How the NSA Tampers with US-Made Internet Routers. The Guardian. May 12, 2014.

  • “The NSA has been covertly implanting interception tools in US servers heading overseas – even though the US government has warned against using Chinese technology for the same reasons, says Glenn Greenwald, in an extract from his new book about the Snowden affair, No Place to Hide.”

Kang, Cecilia. FCC Approves Plan to Consider Paid Priority on Internet. The Washington Post. May 15, 2014.

  • The Federal Communications Commission voted three-to-two (along party lines) to move forward to public comment on proposed new open Internet rules that “could dramatically reshape the way consumers experience the Internet, opening the possibility of Internet service providers charging Web sites for higher-quality delivery of their content to American consumers.” While many have expressed opposition to the proposed rules, FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, has said the FCC will not allow for “commercially unreasonable” business practices.

Kettemann, Matthias C. International Law and the Normative Order of the Internet. CGCS Media Wire. May 15, 2014.

  • Kettemann looks into the relationship between Internet governance and international law and finds that, although Internet governance norms often “rely on, and explicitly and implicitly refer to, international legal norms”, international law and treaties “are not able to establish a regime that is responsive to the unique challenges that governing the internet in the global common interest implies”. Thus while international law can help to “explain and justify each step in the process of building and applying norms to the governance and regulation of internet”, there is new thinking required for how to establish normative order for the Internet.

MacDonald, Raegan, Estelle Masse, and Jochai Ben-Avie. Mitigating the CJEU’s Dangerous Precedent. Access Now. May 14, 2014.

  • MacDonald and her co-authors discuss the European Court of Justice’s ruling on the “right to forget” –the right for individuals to have lawfully published information about them censored—as a dangerous outcome for Internet freedom and human rights. In particular, the authors argue that online services “should not be held liable for the availability of content over which they have no control” and that letting Internet platforms play “judge, jury, and executioner over the legality of content” leads to incentives to violate freedom of expression and access to information. Moreover, the authors argue that the ruling makes it difficult for U.S. Internet companies to claim that they operate exclusively under U.S. jurisdiction.

Streitfeld, David. European Court Lets Users Erase Records on Web. New York Times. May 13, 2014.

  • This week the European Court of Justice (Europe’s highest court) ruled that “people [have] the right to influence what the world could learn about them through online searches”. This means that online users could ask Google to be “’forgotten’ after a certain time by erasing links to web pages”. The ruling has drawn criticism especially for the threats it may pose to free expression and information accessibility online. For example, some argue that the ruling creates the foundations for “large-scale private censorship in Europe”.

WSJ Leadership, Wu, Tim, and Szoka, Ryan. Should Broadband Internet Access Be Regulated as a Utility? The Wall Street Journal. May 11, 2014.

  • In response to recent news about the FCC and proposed new “open Internet” rules, a debate has emerged about whether broadband should be subjected to public-utility rules or whether increased regulation and treatment as a monopoly would kill investment.  Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School writes “in favor of regulating broadband like a utility,” while Berin Szoka, TechFreedom President, “says competition will flourish if the government gets out of the way.”

Internet Technology

Leverenz, Zach. Creating Opportunity Through Connectivity. Meeting of the Minds. May 12, 2014.

  • The U.S. Census Bureau reports that only one in four U.S. households have access to the Internet, with income being a primary indicator as to whether connectivity at home is likely. Additionally, an Internet Innovation Alliance study found that “a household can save . . . over $8,000 a year on entertainment, housing, and other necessities” with high-speed Internet access. To help combat connectivity challenges, EveryoneOn, “a nonprofit organization devoted to closing the digital divide,” is partnering with organizations to leverage and expand “transformational trends” that are bringing us closer to universal adoption of broadband, including nearly ubiquitous coverage, dropping tech costs and unprecedented alignment of public-private sector interest.

Moving Towards a More Robust, Secure and Agile Internet. National Science Foundation. May 12, 2014.

  • The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Directorate for Computer and Informatin Science and Engineering (CISE) has awarded $15 million to three “multi-institutional projects that will further develop, deploy, and test future Internet architectures”. The pilot networks are “designed to enhance security, respond to emerging service challenges and enable the scalability of the information infrastructure upon which Internet users increasingly rely”. Rather than “replace the Internet wholesale”, the purpose of these projects is to show different ways to address “current and emerging challenges” related to Internet architectures.

Papers and Reports

Anderson, Janna, and Rainee, Lee. The Internet of Things Will Thrive by 2025. PewResearch Internet Project. May 14, 2014.

  • This research report by the Pew Internet Project is part of a set of reports to mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web. It addresses “where the Internet of Things would stand by the year 2025” through a range of interviews and includes some 1600 responses. The report finds that Internet of Things is expected to be evident in many places including our bodies, homes, communities, goods and services, and the environment. The report looks at the rise and consequences of “ubiquitous computing” in the future and also looks at issues of surveillance and monitoring that are involved in making the Internet of Things work.

Grab, Denise. Navigating Net Neutrality. Institute for Policy Integrity, New York University School of Law. May 14, 2014.

  • This report “examines the regulatory options and recommends to FCC [the Federal Communications Commission] a course forward that will best promote the benefits of widespread Internet access. With the broadband industry and the Internet changing so rapidly, if the FCC wants to remain involved in broadband regulation, it will have to be able to keep up with these changes. As a first step toward regulation, the FCC will need to examine the social goals it hopes to achieve: most likely a combination of network effects, democratized expression, innovation, and competition. In order to create a policy that the agency is able to effectively adapt over time, the focus cannot be solely on the substance of the Open Internet Order, but also needs to address how the agency plans to implement the policy”.

Krazit, Tom. Why Gigaom Thinks it’s Time to Reinvent the Internet. Gigaom. May 7, 2014.

  • Intended to “spark thought and discussion” around the future of the Internet, this special report by Gigaom surveys the current state of the Internet and its impacts, and outlines proposals for how the Internet “might be reinvented if it were being conceived in 2014”. The report contains five pieces investigating the role of peer-to-peer networks, mobile computers, the economics of television-watching on computers, privacy and security, and the role of government in regulating the Internet:
  • Fitchard, Kevin. Reinveinting the Internet: How Wireless Networks Could Become the Workhorses of the Web. Gigaom. May 7, 2014.
    • This section looks at “how the wireless networks of the future should evolve to handle a world in which mobile computers are the standard computers”. Fitchard points out that mobile networks are built on phone network models and not on Internet models, and therefore argues that we need to decentralizing mobile networks by thinking of mobile devices not as “terminal points in the network” but as “part of the network”. Fitchard also argues that mobile data needs to be cheaper if more people are to access wireless networks.
  • Higginbotham, Stacey. Reinventing the Internet: How Do We Build a Better Network? Gigaom. May 7, 2014.
    • In this section, Higginbotham discusses how the Internet’s growth, “in terms of connected devices, content and its importance, has researchers and analysts searching for new business models and technical ways to improve the network.” She discusses trends emerging to prepare the Internet for future network demands, from peer-to-peer technologies to named-data networks and more.
  • Meyer, David. Reinventing the internet: Here’s how to make online life more secure and trustworthy. Gigaom. May 7, 2014.
    • This section looks at the Internet as a “shared global resource” and how to keep this resource safe and secure. Meyer’s main argument is that cooperation is the key to safety and security online. He suggests several components of such cooperation, including “responsible disclosure” of security flaws; regular auditing of Internet code (e.g. OpenSSL and Heartbleed); default and universal encryption; informed consent of the use of data; and the establishment of privacy-friendly principles online.
  • Roberts, Jeff John. Reinventing the Internet: A Political Protocol to Protect the Internet, and Where to Find It. Gigaom. May 7, 2014.
    • Roberts observes that Internet protocols (technical standards) have “no central switch to rip up these standards or turn them off” and that the Internet is “an open technology where common protocols are developed and maintained by many people”. However, the “political protocols” (narratives and norms) of the Internet are increasingly being debated in terms of “Internet sovereignty” and “national security” and these arguments jeopardize the global and interconnected nature of the Internet. Roberts argues that “the most effective response to repressions will occur beyond the realm of governments” and points to examples such as Google’s “Transparency Reports” and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Tor Project.
  • Roettgers, Janko. Reinventing the internet: What if the AMC took the plunge & unbundled from cable. Gigaom. May 7, 2014.
    • In this section Roettgers argues that retransmission fees –the fees that cable and satellite companies pay to carry cable channels– are at the heart of debates about unbundling cable television services and streaming TV online. Roettgers suggests that “unbundling” cable networks can allow content providers to tailor services more individually.

Lim, Hae-in et al. Netizen Report: Google Loses in EU, Wins in Pakistan. Global Voices Advocacy. May 14, 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.” In this week’s highlights: the European Court of Justice ruled that individuals have the right to control what results can be seen when a person’s name is entered in a search engine; in Pakistan, the High Court of Lahore has called for the unblocking of YouTube in the country – a request which must now be taken to the Supreme Court; a team of researchers at the University of Michigan studied Estonia’s e-voting system and recommended that Estonia urgently discontinue the use of this system because of security risks.

Weitzner, Daniel J. To Best Rule the Net. Science Magazine, Volume 344, No. 6182. April 25, 2014.

  • In this review of Laura DeNardis’ book, The Global War for Internet Governance, Weitzner points out first that DeNardis takes a sweeping and broad view of Internet governance which works to the advantage of the book because it allows for a broad analysis of the “magnitude of human effort” involved in “governing” the Internet. DeNardis looks at both privacy and cybersecurity and Weitzner points out that researchers still have a hard time actually measuring and describing these aspects of the Internet. Thus he concludes his review by stating that we still have “a lot to learn across a range of computer, social, and behavioral sciences to understand how to keep the Internet going and growing”.


LibTech NYC. Internet Society New York Chapter. May 21, 2014.

  • This is a side-event to Internet Week New York to “envision, learn, share and build robust, decentralized networks through participatory systems”. The event will look at net neutrality, open source approaches to national intelligence, the possibility of an “Internet Bill of Rights”, and the relationship between social capital and technology.

Video: Reset the Net. Fight for the Future. June 5, 2014.

  • To promote privacy and protest NSA surveillance, on June 5, a year following Edward Snowden’s first NSA story, Fight for the Future activists are encouraging developers to add one NSA-resistant feature to their application, Internet users to add one NSA-resistant privacy tool, and website and Tumblr operators to run the “Reset the Net” splash screen on their sites.

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