The GovLab SCAN – Issue 15

Supporting the ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation.

As part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project, this is our fifteenth edition of The SCAN – Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance. Feel free to share your suggestions with us at [email protected].

This week’s highlights:

  • ICANN has set up six “Globalization Advisory Groups” which will address the following areas: the “Affirmation of Commitments (“AOC”), policy structures, legal structure, root server system, the IANA multistakeholder accountability, and Internet governance.” This is particularly relevant in light of recent European Commission requests to establish a “timeline for the globalization of ICANN.”
  • Increased fear over Internet “balkanization” has shed light on a lack of consensus s to what this tricky term truly means. For example, increased security protocols and surveillance mechanisms do not equal “balkanization,” nor does content-localization. Ultimately, “balkanization” may have to do with dividing the physical infrastructure of the Internet between borders, something very few countries have actually done (Iran is a notable example).
  • Many governments are calling for “data localization,” i.e. trying to route content and Internet services into a country’s borders (so that a person’s social media data would all be stored, e.g., in the country in which they reside). However, those opposing data localization note its costs and inefficiencies, highlighting that the Internet is built to route traffic across borders. They argue that restructuring these networks is like “reinventing the wheel.”
  • Last week, Comcast acquired Time Warner Cable, making Comcast by far the largest cable and broadband provider in the U.S. There are interesting arguments surrounding the merger, such as those arguing that it will boost the company’s ability to provide services efficiently (that this is “good for business”), and those that argue that this will halt innovation as the company has less reason to compete.
  • In light of the upcoming Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance in Brazil, many articles have attempted to untangle various concepts and issues in Internet governance, in particular addressing the relationship between security and surveillance. The role of the nation-state as a unitary actor is being emphasized as something that needs to be reevaluated in light of distributed threats and victims.


Crocker, Steve. “ICANN’s Relationship with the IETF.” ICANN Blog. February 19, 2014.

  • Dr. Crocker (Chairman of the Board of ICANN) describes ICANN’s relationship with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The IETF is “where the technical work is done on the Internet protocols.” At the IETF, “new protocols are created and old protocols are improved.” When protocols are complete, their details are published as “Requests for Comments,” which are available for free online. Like ICANN, the IETF holds three meetings a year and develops protocols through consensus-based processes. However, the IETF is “more of a process than an organization” and the IETF has no enforcement authority (unlike ICANN). Dr. Crocker defines three relationships between ICANN and the IETF: 1) ICANN provides a service to the IETF, e.g., through the IANA function; 2) ICANN consumes IETF products, e.g., functional protocols; and 3) ICANN and the IETF both participate in Internet governance discussions. Dr. Crocker concludes that there is one big difference between ICANN and the IETF – the level of technical understanding. Whereas “almost everyone at an IETF meeting can tell you how many bits are in an IPv4 address or an IPv6 address, and some can virtually do it in their sleep,” the same does not hold true for ICANN.

President’s Globalization Advisory Groups.” February 17, 2014.

  • The Board of Directors of ICANN has approved a resolution to set up six “President’s Globalization Advisory Groups” to address the following areas: the “Affirmation of Commitments (“AOC”), policy structures, legal structure, root server system, the IANA multistakeholder accountability, and Internet governance.” These advisory groups will meet with the ICANN community during ICANN 49 in Singapore in March. They will report and make recommendations to the ICANN President and CEO and the full Board for consideration.

Tamon, Mukom Akong. “Designing Effective Regulation or IPv6 Adoption.” CircleID. February 18, 2014.

  • Akong describes regulatory approaches for promoting IPv6 and makes some suggestions for best practices for using regulation to drive IPv6 adoption. He argues that “deploying IPv6 is the only way to sustain the explosive growth of the Internet and connect the more than 4 billion people who are yet to be connected.” He adds that “IPv6 deployment is not an end-user problem and should not be cast primarily as such.”

Internet Governance

Blanchard, Ben. “China Says Kerry’s Call for Internet Freedom Naïve.” Reuters. February 17, 2014.

  • Four Chinese bloggers were invited to discuss Internet freedom with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week in an event organized by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. During the discussion, Kerry expressed his support for online freedom in China. Chinese authorities are criticizing Kerry for his remarks as “naïve” and questioning why his discussion did not mention Edward Snowden and the NSA.

Fältström, Patrik. “It Is Payback Time! – Government of Sweden on Internet Governance.” CircleID. February 19, 2014.

  • Faltstrom (the chair of ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee) praises the Swedish government’s lead in being an advocate for an open Internet in global debates. He points to statements by Anna-Karin Hatt (the Swedish IT Minister), who stated that recent debates are “muddling the issues of surveillance and internet governance” and that “we can no longer take an open Internet for granted. We must fight for it. It is payback time.”

Frieden, Rob. “Comcast-TWC: Why Compete and Innovate When You Can Buy Market Share?CircleID. February, 13, 2014.

  • Comcast last week acquired Time Warner for $45 billion in stock. There are multiple arguments surrounding the acquisition; Comcast will be able to scale its services more efficiently; consumers will have to “pay more for less.” Forthcoming FCC regulations may be particularly relevant in light of these debates.

Maurer, Tim, and Morgus, Robert. “Stop Calling Decentralization of the Internet ‘Balkanization’.” Slate. February 19, 2014.

  • The authors argue that the term “balkanization” (implying that the global Internet is “splitting up”) is problematic because there is no consensus on its meaning. There are many different kinds of “fragmentation,” which carry different consequences, such as physical barriers in infrastructure, or content localization (e.g. Baidu and Google), or internationalized domain names (IDNs) via ICANN. The authors therefore urge a more detailed analysis of the various levels at which the Internet can conceivably be “balkanized” or “fragmented.”

McKenzie, Jessica. “Turkey: ‘We Need Internet Censorship, Because Violence Against Women’.” TechPresident. February 13, 2014.

  • Following the passing of legislation that would allow Turkish authorities to block Internet traffic and compel Internet service providers to censor content without a court order, the Turkish government has launched an advertising campaign against Internet freedom. The campaign essentially argues that a free and open Internet is unsafe and leads to violence and insecurity. McKenzie points out that these arguments are not dissimilar from arguments in the UK about children being in danger because of an unregulated Internet.

Mueller, Milton. “Do the NSA Revelations Have Anything To Do With Internet Governance?” Internet Governance Project. February 19, 2014.

  • In this article, Mueller discusses the disconnect between Internet governance debates and surveillance and security concerns prompted by revelations of NSA spying. Mueller argues that historically, non-state actors have had a “first-mover advantage” in building Internet infrastructures and that governments are late to this game, producing much of the tension we see today. Into “this deadlock” came the NSA spying revelations, which Mueller suggests show that “old security concepts like deterrence and retaliation” are obsolete as the distinction between public and private spheres blur and threats (and victims) tend to span across borders. Mueller points out that in this analysis, information infrastructures may be militarized “or at least fully securitized” and ICTs could be regulated as if they were weapons. Mueller argues “the NSA revelations do intersect with issues of global governance, not only with respect to privacy and the Internet, but also concerning the nature of political authority and the geopolitical balance of power.” He concludes by suggesting that “we are deluding ourselves if we think that the way the global internet is governed can be detached from the game of power politics among states, and that the openness and freedom of the Internet’s information flows will not be powerfully affected by other countries[‘], and other citizens’, trust (or lack thereof) of the world’s biggest and most powerful state.”

Robinson, Frances. “Phew! Europe’s Highest Court Decides Not to Break the Internet.” The Wall Street Journal. February 13, 2014.

  • Last week the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that hyperlinking to other authors’ articles in online-publications does not require the permission of the copyright holder (unless access to these materials is purposefully meant to be restricted, e.g. where access requires payment).

Sadowska, Marzena. “Is Big Brother Watching?Open Democracy. February 17, 2014.

  • Some members of the European Union believe that Internet governance ought to be more global and that a multistakeholder model could breathe new life into Internet governance. ICANN, which is based in California, is the body currently tasked with managing Internet domain names and numbers. However, in the wake of revelations of the true reach of the NSA, some question the United States’ fitness to serve in this governance capacity and call for a more global system of governance. In order for a multistakeholder process to work, European Union member states will have to contend with ongoing transparency issues as well as come to a singular vision on what kind of Internet the EU envisions.

Scott, Mark. “E.U. Leaders Seek Way to Protect Individuals’ Data.” The New York Times. February 18, 2014.

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France are discussing the creation of telecommunications networks that keep individuals’ data inside EU borders. However, critics say that this is difficult, costly, and likely unproductive, as it would require physically rebuilding network infrastructure –which is like reinventing the wheel. Some are labeling the effort for data and server localization as a “very political idea”.

Wyatt, Edward. F.C.C. Seeks a New Path on ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules. The New York Times. February 19, 2014.

  • In January, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s “Open Internet Order” was struck down by a U.S. federal appeals court. Now, the FCC will again try to introduce new rules that would “discourage Internet service providers from charging companies to stream their movies, music and other content through a faster express lane.” The main difference between January and now is that the FCC will cite Section 706 of the Communications Act for its authority (the appeals court in January ruled that the FCC had no authority to enforce an “Open Internet Order”).

Papers & Reports

Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology.” Pew Research. February 13, 2014.

  • A Pew Research report surveyed 24 countries in the emerging and developing world. It shows that “Internet and mobile technology have become a part of everyday life for some in the emerging and developing world,” and that cellphones in particular are “almost omnipresent in many nations.” Most people surveyed in these countries are still unconnected to the Internet. However, the survey also finds that, once people do gain access to the Internet, “they quickly begin to integrate it into their lives.”

Lim, Hae-in, et al. “Netizen Report: Venezuela’s State-Owned ISP Blocking Opposition Sites?Slate. February 19, 2014.

  • In Venezuela, state-owned broadband and cable service providers have been shutting down pro-opposition websites and blogs, and have also taken a television cable network off the air for covering a recent wave of protests; in the Philippines, the Supreme Court has affirmed the “constitutionality of online libel” (part of the “Cyber Martial Law”); in the U.S., discoveries have found that commercial spyware was used to surveil Ethiopian journalists (working in the U.S.) who are frequently critical of the Ethiopian government (leading some to believe the Ethiopian government owns the spyware); in Zambia, the “Information and Communication Technology Authority deactivated the SIM cards of more than 2 million mobile phone users who failed to register their cards under a new nationwide real-name registration policy.”

MacKinnon, Rebecca. “Progress Report: From Case Studies to a Draft Methodology.” Ranking Digital Rights. February 16, 2014.

  • The “Ranking Digital Rights” project is “developing a methodology to rank the world’s major information and communications technology (ICT) companies on policies and practices related to free expression and privacy.” It will apply this methodology to the worlds most powerful ICT sector companies in a public ranking, and the data is intended to be useful and actionable for different audiences. The project researchers are now working to produce a “discussion draft” of the full methodology. The draft will be posted online in March.


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