Internet fragmentation: Net neutrality

6 Dec 2016 10:00h - 11:30h

Event report

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Moderator Mr Rodrigo de la Parra of ICANN gave a brief introduction of the role telecommunication regulator in Mexico and asked each of the panel members one question, giving them five minutes each to speak about net neutrality and Internet fragmentation. 

Mr Bill Drake from the Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research at the University of Zurich talked about Davos reports on Internet fragmentation noting that the way business people talk about fragmentation is different from how technical people, HR people, censorship activists, and civil society see it. Everyone has a holistic big picture that there is the big phenomenon that can be recognised. Every device can share a message with another device, irrespective of their location and their ISP. An open and free Internet will offer connectivity between different Internet governance stakeholder endpoints. Drake mentioned that there is a need to differentiate between the layers where Internet fragmentation is happening in the digital space for example the technical layer, the economic layer, and the social layer. A lot of technical fragmentation is caused by commercial and governmental censorship of online communications.

Ms Cristina Monti International Relations Officer in the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content, and Technologies mentioned that it is quite clear that Internet governance stakeholders have joined their efforts in considering the complexity of the Internet to deal with Internet fragmentation. The Internet works well with intergovernmental co-operation to increase legitimacy and avoid the issue of Internet fragmentation. The technical community should take the lead on technical issues. Internet governance stakeholders should take care that the rule of law is upheld. On 3 April 2016, the EU amended a law on Open Internet to remove obstacles and introduce principles and online human rights. This was the result of a long legal process involving different players and different views from civil society. It strikes a good balance and provides a framework for innovation for the future development of the Internet.  

Ms Mignon L. Clyburn, Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), talked about Internet fragmentation and Internet openness which are a problem for individual freedom and democracy. The USA protects open free speech and consumers should choose what they access online. Clyburn noted that the principle of not discriminating, of moral parity, should be recognised in the Internet governance debate. Most people use fixed and mobile devices to access the Internet. Mobile users need to be empowered.  This is called the virtuous cycle of innovation that increases users demand on broadband which in turn increases as innovation increases. This will offer more opportunities for business, fostering growth in the market environment.

Ms Chinmayi Arun, Research Director at the Centre for Communication Governance, National Law University, Delhi, said that looking with regards to fragmentation and data localisation, many countries do not control their data. How do we regulate cloud computing? There is a debate around zero-rating Internet for people who do not have access. However, this would create an Internet for the poor who are expected be grateful for this kind of access. The right to freedom of expression should include the right to receive information.

Mr Alejandro Pisanty, Director General for Academic Computing Services of the National University of Mexico (UNAM), in Mexico City, talked about the human rights approach to broadband connection. They have developed the right to access and created the Federal Institute of Communication as a regulating body for communication and telecommunication, as well the authority of economic implementation. ISPs provide Internet access services. and traffic management to prevent the spread of malicious malware. Reasonable traffic network congestion to litigate such contention occurs in exceptional circumstances.

Dr Roseyn Layton, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, looked at 15 countries where different regimes did deliver on the promises of net neutrality with soft rules, multistakeholder codes of products, and even hard net neutrality rules. She looked at two countries in particular: Denmark and Netherlands.  Denmark chooses a self-regulation policy and agreed on an equality guarantee. The Netherlands proposed a law restricting zero-rating. Layton mentioned that we should develop more tools to bring the innovation to the end users.    

by Hamza Ben Mehrez, Internet Society Tunisia