Technical standards

Updates

24 Jul 2015 | Technical Standards 2015-07-24 IETF93

93rd IETF meeting took place in Prague, with the IAB plenary within. Interesting discussions on vehicular networking took place. ITU Secretary General also joined the technical plenary.

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What are technical standards?

The Internet technical standards and services form the infrastructure that makes the Internet work, and include the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), the domain name system (DNS), and the secure sockets layer (SSL). Standards ensure that hardware and software developed or manufactured by developed entities can work together as seamlessly as possible. Standards therefore guide the technical community, including manufacturers, to develop interoperable hardware and software.

TCP/IP is the main Internet technical standard. It is based on three principles: packet-switching, end-to-end networking, and robustness. Internet governance related to TCP/IP has two important aspects: the introduction of new standards - an aspect that is shared by technical standards in general - and the distribution of IP numbers, which is explained in more detail in the section on IP numbers.

 

Setting technical standards

Technical standards are increasingly being set by private and professional institutions. The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) oversees the technical and engineering development of the Internet, while most standards are set by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as Request for Comments (RFC). Both the IAB and the IETF have their institutional home within the Internet Society (ISOC).

Other institutions include: the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), which develops standards such as the WiFi standard (IEEE 802.11b); the WiFi Internet Governance Alliance, which is the certification body for WiFi-compatible equipment; and the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA), which develops standards for mobile networks.

Standards that are open (open Internet standards) allow developers to set up new services without requiring permission. Examples include the World Wide Web and a range of Internet protocols. The open approach to standards development has been affirmed by a number of institutions. One such affirmation is the Open Stand initiative, endorsed by bodies including IEEE, IETF, IAB, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and the Internet Society.

Technology, standards, and policy

The relevance of setting or implementing standards in such a fast developing market gives standard-setting bodies a considerable amount of influence.

Technical standards could have far-reaching economic and social consequences, promoting specific interests and altering the balance of power between competing businesses and/or national interests. Standards are essential for the Internet. Through standards and software design, Internet developers can shape how human rights are used and protected (e.g. freedom of information, privacy, and data protection).

Efforts to create formal standards bring private technical decisions made by system builders into the public realm; in this way, standards battles can bring to light unspoken assumptions and conflicts of interest. The very passion with which stakeholders contest standards decisions should alert us to the deeper meaning beneath the nuts and bolts.

Possible gaps in dealing with technical standards

Non-technical aspects - such as security, human rights, and competition policy - may not be sufficiently covered during the process of developing technical standards. For instance, most of the past developments of Internet standards aimed at improving performance or introducing new applications, whereas security was not a priority. It is now unclear whether the IETF will be able to change standards to provide proper authentication and, ultimately, reduce the misuse of the Internet (e.g. spam, cybercrime).

Given the controversy surrounding any changes to basic Internet standards, it is likely that security-related improvements in the basic Internet protocol will be gradual and slow. Yet decisive steps are starting to be implemented in this direction, with the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) being a good illustrative example. Following almost 12 years of research, trials, and debates within the technical community, DNSSEC first started to be deployed for some ccTLDs and from 2010 it was also implemented at the root server level. However, further challenges reside in the large-scale adoption of this new security standard down the ladder by the domain name registrars, ISPs, and website owners.

As with web standards, there appears to be a gap in the participation of stakeholders in the development of technical standards. Even though participation is open to all stakeholders groups, some submissions to the WGEC/correspondence group have noted the need for more involvement from specific stakeholder groups such as governments.

Events

Actors

(EBU)

In an environment increasingly characterised by digital convergence, the EBU is working on supporting its memb

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In an environment increasingly characterised by digital convergence, the EBU is working on supporting its members in their digital transformation processes, in promoting and making use of digital channels, and in identifying viable investment solutions for over-the-top (OTT) services. The organisation has a Digital Media Steering Committee, focused on ‘defining the role of public service media in the digital era, with a special focus on how to interact with big digital companies’. It also develops a bi-annual roadmap for technology and innovation activities, as well as a Strategic Programme on Broadcaster Internet Services, and it has a dedicated Project Group on OTT services.

(IETF)

The core mission of the IETF is to develop technical standards for the Internet, ranging from Internet protoco

...

The core mission of the IETF is to develop technical standards for the Internet, ranging from Internet protocols (e.g. IPv4 and IPv6) and the Domain Name System (e.g. aspects related to the functioning of Internationalised Domain Names), to routing systems and security issues. Areas of work covered by IETF working groups include applications (e.g. real time communication and audio/video transport), Internet protocols, operations and management (e.g. DNS operations, routing operations, network configuration), routing (e.g. inter-domain routing, tunneling protocol extensions), security and transport (e.g. authentication and authorisation, IP security maintenance and extensions, and transport layer security).

(ITU, UIT)
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The ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) develops international standards (called recommendations) covering information and communications technologies. Standards are developed on a consensus-based approach, by study groups composed of representatives of ITU members (both member states and companies). These groups focus on a wide range of topics: operational issues, economic and policy issues, broadband networks, Internet protocol based networks, future networks and cloud computing, multimedia, security, the Internet of Things and smart cities, and performance and quality of service. The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA), held every four years, defines the next period of study for the ITU-T.

(ISO)

Many of the international standards and related documents developed by ISO cover aspects related to

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Many of the international standards and related documents developed by ISO cover aspects related to information and communication technologies (ICTs) and processes. Examples include: information security, smart community infrastructures, sensor networks, cloud computing services and devices, cloud data management, virtual private networks, future networks, unique identification for the Internet of Things, digital signatures, Internet gateway device control protocols, health informatics, software management, etc. Such standards are developed by experts from all over the world, through a consensus process, and they are aimed at ensuring that products and services are safe, reliable, and of good quality.

(Ecma)

A large part of Ecma’s activity is dedicated to defining standards and technical reports for information and c

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A large part of Ecma’s activity is dedicated to defining standards and technical reports for information and communication technologies (hardware, software, communications, media storage, etc.). This work is carried out through technical committees and task groups, focusing on issues such as: safety standards for information technology equipment, standards for data interchange and storage by means of digitally recorder systems, standards for wireless communications, TV white spaces standards, standards for next generation corporate networks, and standards for smart data centres. The standards and technical reports developed in committees and groups are subject to vote in the Ecma General Assembly.

(IEC)

The IEC carries our standardisation and conformity assessment activities covering a

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The IEC carries our standardisation and conformity assessment activities covering a vast array of technologies. These range from smart cities, smart grids, and smart energies, to electromagnetic compatibility between devices, digital system interfaces and protocols, and fibre optics and cables. Other areas covered by the Commission through its work include cable networks, multimedia home systems and applications for end-user network, multimedia e-publishing and e-book technologies, safety of information technology and communication technology, wearable electronic devices and technologies, cards and personal identification, programming languages, IT for learning, education, and training, cloud computing and distributed platforms, and the Internet of Things.

Instruments

Conventions

International Telecommunication Regulations (WCIT-12) (2012)
International Telecommunication Regulations (WATTC-88) (1988)

Standards

ITU-T Recommendation X.1601 Security Framework for Cloud Computing (2015)
Recommendation ITU-T Y.3600 'Big data – cloud computing based requirements and capabilities' (2015)
Recommendation ITU-T Y.2060 ‘Overview of the Internet of things’ (2012)

Other Instruments

Resources

Blockchain Technology and Internet Governance (2017)

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Reports

NI Trend Watch 2016 (2015)

GIP event reports

Domain Names Innovation and Competition (2017)

Other resources

GSMA IoT Security Guidelines (2016)

 

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