Internet in pillole
Internet in 13 small doses
Stefano Trumpy

The Internet is a miracle

  • It is, in some respects, since it is a phenomenon that escaped the planned economy of the communication industries supported by their respective governments.

The Internet has an original sin

  • It is the fruit of military funds.
  • To understand how it could happen, consider that the US military research model is different from that of Europe, and Italy in particular.
  • The US Department of Defence (DoD) has always invested a lot in research, and the university and public research sectors have always benefited from that, so that the results achieved were not restricted to military goals.
  • So as it met its client's requirements, the Internet became a very popular means of communication among the groups of researchers scattered across the United States, who were soon joined by research groups from Europe and other continents.

The Internet has developed in an unstructured way

  • Despite its governmental origin, although only in the allocation of funds and the achievement of specific objectives, the Internet has developed in a definitely anarchic and unstructured way.
  • Since it is essentially a network of networks, the central control area has always been kept to a minimum, to keep its trends consistent.

The Internet is ruled by a meritocracy

  • The Internet has always developed from the bottom up, although this 'bottom' was a meritocracy that thrived in university settings and was then partly given to the industry. In this way, the Internet protocol (the TCP/IP) defeated the ISO/OSI protocol, which had been designed by leading computer manufacturers to make sure they were interoperable online.
  • The development of the latter protocol was extremely expensive; the TCP/IP was simpler and in addition its development costs had been borne by the DoD.

How is the Internet legitimated; that's a problem

  • The exponential growth of Internet users raised technical problems of scale and global organisation development.
  • Up to then, the Internet had kept far from any problem of legality; then, problems surfaced that challenged those network government organisations which had been 'casually' run by first-rank technicians without thinking too much of any legal or policy problem.

The initial gap between the USA and EU began to be filled in the Nineties

  • The Internet began to spread in Europe quite late but more and more relentlessly.
  • The academic and research sectors have been using the Internet more and more since the mid-Eighties.
  • Around the mid-Nineties, the widespread use of the Internet in trade, public administration and in all strata of society made the number of European Internet users outgrow the number of US users.

Internet governance

  • What is Internet governance?
  • It is the management of those parameters that keep the Internet together; they are the management of protocols agreed upon by IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), the allocation of IP addresses to network resources and the allocation of domain names which can essentially be used to address our contacts for email and web sites in a way that is easy to remember.
  • In this way, the Internet can work as the largest network of networks ever or as the mother of all networks. It seems these issues could be managed by a group of first-rank technicians without any strong policy implication but, as we are going to see, this is no longer true.

ICANN is born

  • With the White Book published in 1988 by Clinton - Gore, the US Government started a process to make the management of the Internet governance go globally public.
  • This is how ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) come into being, with the object of entrusting the private sector with the task of managing "Internet governance"; the US Government, through the Department of Commerce, would have kept supervising ICANN until the basic objects had been reached and the private sector had proved able to manage the 'corè of the network in a reliable way and without too many objections.

Governments take an interest in the Internet

  • Over the last few years, many governments have increasingly acknowledged that the Internet infrastructure is a critical factor to the community.
  • This is why paradoxically while the US Government tried to disengage itself, the other Governments, the European ones in particular, became more and more aware of "Internet governance" issues.
  • ICANN has always been assisted by the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) in order to promote co-operation between the private and the public sectors, which would legitimate ICANN.
  • The real problem, then, when we talk about "Internet governance", is to determine where the technical ends and the policy begins; even if we can shed light on this boundary, how does the policy making role of ICANN intersects the policy making role of other international and/or intergovernmental organisations, such as ITU, WIPO, OCSE, WTO, UNDP, ISOC, W3C, ETSI, and so on and so forth.
  • ICANN's opponents claim that ICANN is not legitimated since it is a private company incorporated in the State of California, so it cannot legitimate any command or lay down any coercive regulation for a controlled development of the Internet.

The miracle we need today: to find the right balance between the public and the private on a global scale

  • Here we have to establish a virtuous circle; governments must trust technicians and try to interfere as little as possible.
  • Basically, governments need technicians to be guided through the growth of the Internet, and technicians need governments to be legitimated to work and take prescriptive measures.
Happy Birthday ISOC