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Internet governance


Internet governance

Internet governance is the development and application of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet. This article describes how the Internet was and is currently governed, some of the controversies that occurred along the way, and the ongoing debates about how the Internet should or should not be governed in the future.

Internet governance should not be confused with E-Governance, which refers to governments' use of technology to carry out their governing duties.


  • Background 1
  • Definition 2
  • History 3
  • Governors 4
  • Globalization and governance controversy 5
    • Role of ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce 5.1
    • IBSA proposal (2011) 5.2
    • Montevideo Statement on the Future of Internet Cooperation (2013) 5.3
    • Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance (2013) 5.4
    • NetMundial Initiative (2014) 5.5
  • See also 6
    • Internet bodies 6.1
    • United Nations bodies 6.2
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


No one person, company, organization or government runs the Internet. It is a

  • APC Internet Rights Charter, Association for Progressive Communications, November 2006
  • CircleID: Internet Governance
  • Diplo Internet Governance Community
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation, website
  • The Future of Global Internet governance, Institute of Informatics and Telematics - Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricercha (IIT-CNR), Pisa
  • Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet)
  • ICANN - Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
  • Internet Governance Forum (IGF)
  • Internet Governance Project
  • Internet Society, website
  • "The Politics and Issues of Internet Governance", Milton L. Mueller, April 2007, analysis from the Institute of research and debate on Governance (Institut de recherche et débat sur la gouvernance)
  • "United States cedes control of the internet - but what now? - Review of an extraordinary meeting", Kieren McCarthy, The Register, 27 July 2006
  • World Summit on the Information Society: Geneva 2003 and Tunis 2005
  • /1Net Discussion Group

External links

  • Roadmap for the Internet of Things - Its Impact, Architecture and Future Governance, by Mark Fell, Carré & Strauss. 2014.
  • Manifesto for Smarter Intervention in Complex Systems, by Mark Fell, Carré & Strauss. 2013.
  • What is Internet Governance? A primer from the Council on Foreign Relations
  • The Global War for Internet Governance, Laura DeNardis, Yale University Press, 2014. Explains global power dynamics around technical and political governance of the Internet.
  • Ruling the Root: Internet Governance and the Taming of Cyberspace by Milton Mueller, MIT Press, 2002. The definitive study of DNS and ICANN's early history.
  • Protocol Politics, Laura DeNardis, MIT Press, 2009. IP addressing and the migration to IPv6
  • "One History of DNS" by Ross W. Rader. April 2001. Article contains historic facts about DNS and explains the reasons behind the so-called "dns war".
  • "The Emerging Field of Internet Governance", by Laura DeNardis. September 2010. Suggests a framework for understanding problems in Internet governance.
  • Launching the DNS War: Dot-Com Privatization and the Rise of Global Internet Governance by Craig Simon. December 2006. Ph.D. dissertation containing an extensive history of events which sparked the so-called "dns war".
  • " Toward a Critical Theory of Cyberspace", by A. Michael Froomkin, 116 Harv. L. Rev. 749 (2003). Argues that the Internet standards process undertaken by the IETF fulfils Jürgen Habermas's conditions for the best practical discourse.
  • Mueller, Milton L. (2010). Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance. MIT Press.  
  • Dutton, William H.; Malcolm Peltu (March 2007). "The emerging Internet governance mosaic: Connecting the pieces". Information Polity: The International Journal of Government & Democracy in the Information Age 12 (1/2): 63–81.  
  • Malte Ziewitz and Christian Pentzold provide in "In search of internet governance: Performing order in digitally networked environments", New Media & Society 16 (2014): pp. 306–322 an overview of definitions of Internet Governance and approaches to its study.

Further reading

  1. ^ Klein, Hans. (2004). "ICANN and Non-Territorial Sovereignty: Government Without the Nation State." Internet and Public Policy Project. Georgia Institute of Technology.
  2. ^ Packard, Ashley (2010). Digital Media Law. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 65.  
  3. ^ Mueller, Milton L. (2010). Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance. MIT Press. p. 61.  
  4. ^ "Affirmation of Commitments by the United States Department of Commerce and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers". ICANN. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  5. ^ Woltag, Johann-Christoph (2012). Rüdiger Wolfrum, ed. Internet. Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law: Oxford University Press.  
  6. ^ Mueller, Milton L. (2010). Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance. MIT Press. p. 67.  
  7. ^ Mueller, Milton L. (2010). Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance. MIT Press. pp. 79–80.  
  8. ^ DeNardis, Laura, The Emerging Field of Internet Governance (17 September 2010). Yale Information Society Project Working Paper Series.
  9. ^ Malte Ziewitz/Christian Pentzold, "In search of internet governance: Performing order in digitally networked environments", New Media & Society 16 (2014): pp. 306-322.
  10. ^ "Report of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG)", June 2005), p.4.
  11. ^ 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).
  12. ^ Jovan Kurbalija, "An Introduction to Internet Governance", 5 ed, DiploFoundation (2012).
  13. ^ Laura DeNardis, "The Emerging Field of Internet Governance" (17 September 2010), Yale Information Society Project Working Paper Series.
  14. ^ On this, see e.g. Nicola Lucchi, "Internet Content Governace & Human Rights" 16 Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law Vol. 16, n. 4 (2014) 809-856.
  15. ^ A History of the ARPANET: The First Decade (PDF) (Report). Arlington, VA:  
  16. ^ "RFC's, Internet Request For Comments". Retrieved 2012-04-03. 
  17. ^ NSFNET: A Partnership for High-Speed Networking, Final Report 19877-1995, Karen D. Frazer, Merit Network, Inc., 1995
  18. ^ "Retiring the NSFNET Backbone Service: Chronicling the End of an Era", Susan R. Harris, Ph.D., and Elise Gerich, ConneXions, Vol. 10, No. 4, April 1996
  19. ^ "A Brief History of the Internet". 
  20. ^ "History page from the IAB website". Retrieved 2011-11-11. 
  21. ^ RFC 2850: Charter of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), May 2000
  22. ^ "Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)". RIPE NCC. 10 Aug 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  23. ^ O. Jacobsen, D. Lynch, Interop, Inc. (March 1991). "A Glossary of Networking Terms". IETF. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  24. ^ "Net governance chief will step down next year", David McGuire,, 28 May 2002.
  25. ^ Internet Society (ISOC) All About The Internet: History of the Internet
  26. ^ "Internet governance: U.S., Developing countries strike deal", Innocent Gore, Africa News Service, 21 November 2005
  27. ^ "Bush administration objects to .xxx domains", Declan McCullagh, CNet News, 15 August 205. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  28. ^ a b "Chair's Summary", Eighth Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), Bali, Indonesia, 22–25 October 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  29. ^ Goldsmith/Wu, Jack/Tim (2006). Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless World. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. p. 171.  
  30. ^ Bamzai, Sandeep (20 October 2012). "Muzzlers of the Free Internet". London: Mail Today (New Delhi, India). Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  31. ^ a b c "Recommendations from the IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) Multistakeholder meeting on Global Internet Governance", 1–2 September 2011, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  32. ^ "Tunis Agenda for the Information Society", World Summit on the Information Society, 18 November 2005
  33. ^ Kaul, Mahima. "India changes its internet governance position — backs away from UN proposal". UNCUT. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  34. ^ Montevideo Statement on the Future of Internet Cooperation, ICANN, 7 October 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  35. ^ "Brazil's anti-NSA prez urged to SNATCH keys to the internet from America", Rik Myslewski, The Register, 11 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  36. ^ a b Milton Mueller (2013-11-19). "Booting up Brazil". IGP Blog. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  37. ^ "Entrevista com Fadi Chehadé: Brasil sediará encontro mundial de governança da internet em 2014", Palácio do Planalto, 9 October 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  38. ^ "Brazil to host global internet summit in ongoing fight against NSA surveillance", RT News, 10 October 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  39. ^ "CENTR: Internet Governance in 2013 and What's Coming Up in 2014". CircleID. 2014-01-27. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  40. ^ Paul Wilson (2013-11-29). "What Is "1net" to Me". CircleID blog. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  41. ^ "NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement Concludes Act One of 2014 Internet Governance Trifecta". CircleID. 2014-05-03. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  42. ^ "ICANN Releases Roadmap, Timeline for Future Management of Internet". PC Tech Magazine. 2014-05-21. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  43. ^ "Future of the internet debated at NetMundial in Brazil". BBC News. 2014-04-23. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  44. ^ NETmundial Initiative - Debrief with Founding Partners, retrieved 2015-04-14 
  45. ^ Public Declaration on the NETmundial Initiative issued by members of the board of, 2014-11-24, retrieved 2015-04-14 
  46. ^ "At NETmundial, the U.S. Kept Its Companies on the Global Stage". Businessweek. 2014-04-30. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  47. ^ "The future of the internet". Business Standard. 2014-05-03. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  48. ^ "Towards a Collaborative, Decentralized Internet Governance Ecosystem - report by the Panel On Global Internet Cooperation and Governance Mechanisms". 2014-05-20. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 


United Nations bodies

  • postal codes of countries, dependent territories, special areas of geographic significance. To date it has only played a minor role in developing Internet standards.
  • Internet Architecture Board (IAB): Oversees the technical and engineering development of the IETF and IRTF.
  • Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN): Coordinates the Internet's systems of unique identifiers: IP addresses, Protocol-Parameter registries, top-level domain space (DNS root zone). Performs Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) function under agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
  • Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF): Develops and promotes a wide range of Internet standards dealing in particular with standards of the Internet protocol suite. Their technical documents influence the way people design, use and manage the Internet.
  • Internet Governance Forum (IGF): A multistakeholder forum for policy dialogue.
  • Internet Research Task Force (IRTF): Promotes research of the evolution of the Internet by creating focused, long-term research groups working on Internet protocols, applications, architecture, and technology.
  • Internet Network Operators' Groups (NOGs): informal groups established to provide forums for network operators to discuss matters of mutual interest.
  • Internet Society (ISOC): Assures the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world. Currently ISOC has over 90 chapters in around 80 countries.
  • Number Resource Organization (NRO): Established in October 2003, the NRO is an unincorporated organization uniting the five regional Internet registries.
  • Regional Internet Registries (RIRs): There are five regional Internet registries. They manage the allocation and registration of Internet number resources, such as IP addresses, within geographic regions of the world. (Africa:; Asia Pacific:; Canada and United States:; Latin America & Caribbean:; Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia:
  • World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): Creates standards for the World Wide Web that enable an Open Web Platform, for example, by focusing on issues of accessibility, internationalization, and mobile web solutions.

Internet bodies

See also

A month later, the Panel On Global Internet Cooperation and Governance Mechanisms (convened by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) with assistance from The Annenberg Foundation), supported and included the NetMundial statement in its own report.[48]

The meeting produced a nonbinding statement in favor of consensus-based decision-making. It reflected a compromise and did not harshly condemn mass surveillance or include the words "net neutrality", despite initial support for that from Brazil. The final resolution says ICANN should be under international control by September 2015.[46] A minority of governments, including Russia, China, Iran and India, were unhappy with the final resolution and wanted multi-lateral management for the Internet, rather than broader multi-stakeholder management.[47]

The NetMundial Initiative is a plan for international governance of the Internet that was first proposed at the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance (GMMFIG) conference (23–24 April 2014)[41][42][43] and later developed into the NetMundial Initiative by ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade along with representatives of the World Economic Forum (WEF)[44] and the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (Comitê Gestor da Internet no Brasil), commonly referred to as "".[45]

NetMundial Initiative (2014)

In October 2013, Fadi Chehadé, current President and CEO of ICANN, met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia. Upon Chehadé's invitation, the two announced that Brazil would host an international summit on Internet governance in April 2014.[37] The announcement came after the [36][39][40]

Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance (2013)

On 7 October 2013 the NSA surveillance scandal. The statement was signed by the heads of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Architecture Board, the World Wide Web Consortium, the Internet Society, and the five regional Internet address registries (African Network Information Center, American Registry for Internet Numbers, Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre, Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry, and Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre).[34][35][36]

Montevideo Statement on the Future of Internet Cooperation (2013)

One controversial proposal to this effect, resulting from a September 2011 summit between India, Brazil, and South Africa (IBSA), would seek to move internet governance into a "UN Committee on Internet-Related Policy" (UN-CIRP).[30][31] The move was a reaction to a perception that the principles of the 2005 Tunis Agenda for the Information Society have not been met.[31][32] The statement called for the subordination of independent technical organizations such as ICANN and the ITU to a political organization operating under the auspices of the United Nations.[31] After outrage from India’s civil society and media, the Indian government backed away from the proposal.[33]

IBSA proposal (2011)

There were also suggestions that individual governments should have more control, or that the International Telecommunication Union or the United Nations should have a function in Internet governance.[29]

Other topics of controversy included the creation and 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.

When the IANA functions were handed over to ICANN, a new U.S. nonprofit, 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 that ICANN would become illegitimate and its qualifications questionable, due to the fact that it was now losing the aspect of being a neutral governing body. ICANN stated that it was merely streamlining decision-making, and developing a structure suitable for the modern Internet.

The position of the U.S. Department of Commerce as the controller of some aspects of the Internet gradually attracted criticism from those who felt that control should be more international. A hands-off philosophy by the Department of Commerce helped limit this criticism, but this was undermined in 2005 when the Bush administration intervened to help kill the .xxx top-level domain proposal,[27] and, much more severely, following the 2013 disclosures of mass surveillance by the U.S. government.[28]

Role of ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce

Globalization and governance controversy

At the first World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva in 2003, the topic of Internet governance was discussed. ICANN's status as a private corporation under contract to the U.S. government created controversy among other governments, especially Brazil, China, South Africa, and some Arab states. Since no general agreement existed even on the definition of what comprised Internet governance, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan initiated 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, during which the U.S. delegation refused to consider surrendering the U.S. control of the Root Zone file, 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 the United Nations Secretary General before the end of the second quarter of 2006. The Greek government volunteered to host the first such meeting.[26]

In 1992 the BoardArchitectureInternet , and became part of ISOC. The Internet Engineering Task Force also became part of the ISOC. The IETF is overseen currently 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.

After Jon Postel's death in 1998, IANA became part of ICANN, a California nonprofit established in September 1998 by the U.S. government and awarded a contract by the U.S. 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 poorly attended public meeting in Accra, Ghana.[24]

Allocation of IP addresses was delegated to five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs):

From the early days of the network until his death during 1998, RFC Editor.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) was formed during 1986 by the U.S. government to develop and promote Internet standards. It consisted initially of researchers, but by the end of the year participation was available to anyone, and its business was performed largely by email.[22][23]

During 1979 the Internet Configuration Control Board was founded by DARPA to oversee the network's development. During 1984 it was renamed the Internet Advisory Board (IAB), and during 1986 it became the Internet Activities Board.[20][21]


In 1990, the ARPANET was formally terminated. In 1991 the NSF began to relax its restrictions on commercial use on NSFNET and commercial network providers began to interconnect. The final restrictions on carrying commercial traffic ended on 30 April 1995, when the NSF ended its sponsorship of the NSFNET Backbone Service and the service ended.[18][19] Today almost all Internet infrastructure in the United States, and large portion in other countries, is provided and owned by the private sector. Traffic is exchanged between these networks, at major interconnection points, in accordance with established Internet standards and commercial agreements.

Between 1984 and 1986 the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) created the NSFNET backbone, using TCP/IP, to connect their supercomputing facilities. NSFNET became a general-purpose research network, a hub to connect the supercomputing centers to each other and to the regional research and education networks that would in turn connect campus networks.[17] The combined networks became generally known as the Internet. By the end of 1989, Australia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the UK were connected to the Internet, which had grown to contain more than 160,000 hosts.

To understand how the Internet is managed today, it is necessary to know a little of its history. The original ARPANET is one of the components which eventually evolved to become the Internet. As its name suggests the ARPANET was sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency within the U.S. Department of Defense.[15] 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.[16]


Professors Jovan Kurbalic and Laura DeNardis also offer comprehensive definitions to "Internet Governance". According to Kurbalija, the broad approach to Internet Governance goes "beyond Internet infrastructural aspects and address other legal, economic, developmental, and sociocultural issues";[12] along similar lines, DeNardis argues that "Internet Governance generally refers to policy and technical coordination issues related to the exchange of information over the Internet".[13] One of the more policy-relevant questions today is exactly whether the regulatory responses are appropriate to police the content delivered through the Internet: it includes important rules for the improvement of Internet safety and for dealing with threats such as cyber-bullying, copyright infringement, data protection and other illegal or disruptive activities. [14]

  • Physical infrastructure layer (through which information travels)
  • Code or logical layer (controls the infrastructure)
  • Content layer (contains the information signaled through the network)

Law professor Yochai Benkler developed a conceptualization of Internet governance by the idea of three "layers" of governance:[11]

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.[10]

A working group established after a UN-initiated World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) proposed the following definition of Internet governance as part of its June 2005 report:

The definition of Internet governance has been contested by differing groups across political and ideological lines.[9] One of the main debates concerns the authority and participation of certain actors, such as national governments, corporate entities and civil society, to play a role in the Internet's governance.


On 16 November 2005, the United Nations-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), held in Tunis, established the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to open an ongoing, non-binding conversation among multiple stakeholders about the future of Internet governance.[6] Since WSIS, the term "Internet governance" has been broadened beyond narrow technical concerns to include a wider range of Internet-related policy issues.[7][8]

The technical underpinning and standardization of the Internet's core protocols (IPv4 and IPv6) is an activity of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a non-profit organization of loosely affiliated international participants that anyone may associate with by contributing technical expertise.

However, to help ensure interoperability, several key technical and policy aspects of the underlying core infrastructure and the principal namespaces are administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is headquartered in Los Angeles, California. ICANN oversees the assignment of globally unique identifiers on the Internet, including domain names, Internet protocol addresses, application port numbers in the transport protocols, and many other parameters. This seeks to create a globally unified namespace to ensure the global reach of the Internet. ICANN is governed by an international board of directors drawn from across the Internet's technical, business, academic, and other non-commercial communities. However, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, continues to have final approval over changes to the DNS root zone.[1][2] This authority over the root zone file makes ICANN one of a few bodies with global, centralized influence over the otherwise distributed Internet.[3] In the 30 September 2009 Affirmation of Commitments by the Department of Commerce and ICANN, the Department of Commerce finally affirmed that a "private coordinating process…is best able to flexibly meet the changing needs of the Internet and of Internet users" (para. 4).[4] While ICANN itself interpreted this as a declaration of its independence, scholars still point out that this is not yet the case. Considering that the U.S. Department of Commerce can unilaterally terminate the Affirmation of Commitments with ICANN, the authority of DNS administration is likewise seen as revocable and derived from a single State, namely the United States.[5]

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