Documentary coverage of IGF-USA by the Imagining the Internet Center

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IGF-USA 2012 Afternoon Plenary Discussion: Defining the Future for Internet Governance – Meeting Evolving Challenges

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Brief session description:

Thursday, July 26, 2012 – This  major session of the opening plenary of IGF-USA discussed the current state of play with various proposals ranging from the WCIT, the UN Commission on Science and Technology and Enhanced Cooperation, areas where more government may be called for from their perspective or strong improvements in “governance.” Panelists offered a range of perspectives about government and governance.

Featured participants in this special session included Jeff Brueggeman, vice president for public policy, AT&T; Chris Wolf, partner and Internet law expert from Hogans Lovells; Danny Weitzner, Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House.

Details of the session:

Panelists sit to discuss “Defining the Future for Internet Governance: Meeting Evolving Challenges” at the IGF-USA Conference in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

As Chris Wolf of Hogans Lovells said, the ghosts of Internet past, present and future were part of the final plenary discussion on “Defining the Future for Internet Governance: Meeting Evolving Challenges” at IGF-USA Thursday at Georgetown Law Center.

Wolf dubbed himself the “the past guy” and remembered a time he was considered a pioneer in knowledge of the Internet and how it was evolving in its early years. The trio of panelists defined the future for Internet governance and the evolving challenges citizens face.

There’s been an enormous amount of growth and development during the Internet’s short life, noted Jeff Brueggeman, vice president of public policy at AT&T.

“I think the true strength of the IGF, as we talk about every year, is its ability to self-improve,” he said. “And, for all of us, from a bottom-up way, to help innovate and change the process each and every year.”

IGF introduces new topics and builds on those addressed the year before. The IGF is not just a “talk shop” that meets once a year, Brueggeman added.

Chris Wolf speaks during “Defining the Future for Internet Governance: Meeting Evolving Challenges” at the IGF-USA Conference in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

IGF needs to keep broadening the participation and the process, including peers in more developing countries. More remote participation and adding numbers has been a success in the meetings, Brueggeman said. The discussion needs to keep evolving at IGF-USA and on a global basis. Pressure is growing to show that it doesn’t have the same discussion year after year.

Brueggeman said those involved in IGF should do a better job of capturing the impact of the multi-stakeholder process and show the value of it to those who don’t come to the meetings and those who will never come.

Sustainability is a real challenge, though he has seen an enormous amount of progress. A few years ago, organizers and attendees were debating whether there would be an IGF the following year. Now, they debate what to build around the one-day conference.

Danny Weitzner of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy – Wolf called him the “ghost of Internet future” – highlighted three things that are already happening.

“We are at the middle of a multi-stakeholder explosion and the question is how to actually help make sure it’s directed and productive and doing the right things,” Weitzner said,

The second thing: He said Vint Cerf has eloquently pointed out that the Internet is now being actively used by more than 2 billion of the 7 billion people in the world, adding: “Attending to that is going to tremendously important in the future.”

And his final point: “We are in an era of just inevitable and irresistible transparency. Sometimes even governments, sometimes companies, sometimes even civil society groups take refuge in un-transparent un-institutional activities because it’s often easier, it’s often safer. But I think we’re learning over and over again in a variety of different institutions that we’ve got to learn to embrace transparency, we’ve got to learn to make it work for us and that resisting it is a mistake.”

Top-down rule-making does not always lead to innovative solutions. The Internet keys into collective intelligence and is best served by the multistakeholder model of governance, Weitzner said.

Although there are many important issues to address as the Internet evolves, Weitzner said he thinks the real discussion that’s going on is to make sure the Internet’s open environment can raise its accessibility to move from 2 billion users to 7 billion.

— Ashley Barnas


What We Don’t Know About the Future of the Internet – Part II

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2 lee_rainie broadbandLee Rainie, Pew Internet & American Life Project:

What kind of Internet will we have?

Rainie noted the expectation of a “broadband tsunami” but added that “there are two public policy disputes in the realm of Internet architecture where the outcome will determine how widely that tsunami washes over things.”

The two architecture points he illuminated are the broadband issue and the question of how best to make the current Internet architecture more secure and robust, scaling it up to meet escalating needs.

Regarding broadband, he said the latest Pew survey (Sept. 14) shows 77 percent of American adults use the Internet and 63 percent have broadband access at home. This ranks the United States somewhere between 15th and 25th among advanced nations in broadband penetration, depending upon which global study of uptake you choose to cite.

“Whatever the United States’ place in the world rankings,” he said, “it is clear that 27 percent of Americans do not have high-speed connections and there is substantial policy ferment about the best way to bring broadband connections to rural areas and to those with relatively low household incomes.”

Rainie said there is hope in mobile connectivity for closing this digital divide somewhat because the uptake of these devices is more even across regional and economic categories. “But,” he added, there’s a question “about whether phone access to the Internet is as important and as useful as access on computers in terms of experience and personal satisfaction.”

Rainie also touched on the issue of network neutrality, which he described as “whether providers can offer premium media content over their networks and give that content preference to some digital material in exchange for charging higher prices to recoup their investments, or whether all digital material, from e-mails to medical records to high-resolution movies should be treated equally by the network as it currently is.”

When he addressed the future of Internet architecture, Rainie said there are four key problems with the current Internet:

Security: “The ‘start-over’ planners would love to build a new system that would do a better job of authenticating people and their computers in a way that would keep hazards at bay,” he said.

Mobility: “The ‘start-over’ folks hope to create a new system to assign Internet addresses” in the many varied devices in the Internet of things,” he noted.

Instrumentation: “The ‘start-over’ group would like to build something allowing all pieces of the network to have the ability to detect and report emerging problems due to traffic overloads, replicating worms” and other difficulties,” he explained.

Protocols: “These traffic-flow concerns also prompt ‘start-over’ architects to want to structure better traffic routing agreements between Internet service providers that would allow them to collaborate on advance services without compromising businesses,” he said.

-Janna Anderson,

Written by andersj

October 2, 2009 at 3:48 pm