The deliberate forgetting of the Internet



There are many ways in which we have forgotten the Internet.


By ‘deliberate forgetting’ which sounds paradoxical – I mean the way in which something of which we are very aware we at the same time fail to pay attention to as it mutates but still swirls about us increasingly constituting our world…and the closer we are to it the less we see it as something to care about – so long as it works.


Is this true of the net? Key to my argument here is that although Benkler and Lessig focus in on 3 or 4 levels of control function within the net and moreover advocate a much more open source software approach to the net, recent scholarship such as that of Laura de Nardis and of Mueller have begun to point out that:


the governance of the Internet is not simply evolving towards a battleground between cyber-libertarians and cyber-conservatives which again, reduces to proprietorial or open networks,


rather that there are so many interactive or – worryingly – partially interactive and thereby potentially conflicting layers of control within the whole system that if anything, the net in terms of how it is administrated and governed is becoming more complex. But we do not see this. We in a way have forgotten to look under the bonnet



net undersea connections


Net growth data



Libertarians versus authoritarians.



Lessig: 4 forms of regulation


Law                      state laws, defamation law, and obscenity laws

Norms                 how we behave online 

Market                 companies who hold the software 

Architecture        structure of the internet




Benkler: 3 forms of regulation


Physical               physical links to cyberspace

Logical                Code

Content                content stored on hard disk/info files.




We tend to speak of the Internet as if it were a thing, but in reality the Internet is entirely virtual; it consists of nothing but a software protocol suite known as TCP/IP. The software enables any computer in the world to exchange information with any other computer, regardless of the particular physical networks to which they are attached or the hardware they use. It does this largely by giving computers addresses and names, and providing instructions about how to use them.


Data communication on the Internet takes place by breaking messages into smaller units called packets and routing them from network to network. In order to know where to go, each packet must carry a numerical address, known as an Internet Protocol (IP) address. Every computer connected to the Internet must have a unique IP address. To supplement these numerical addresses, the computers, routers, and other resources connected to the network can be given user-friendly names like, known as domain names.


Many vital activities on the Internet, such as email or the World Wide Web, use domain names rather than IP numbers as addresses. But for packets to flow across the network, the user-friendly names must be translated into IP addresses. Both kinds of addresses—domain names and IP numbers—are valuable resources, a kind of virtual real estate that can be bought and sold. It was name and address management that created the controversies that led to the. The specific set of functions at issue can be summarized as


1)  The authority to set policy for and to manage the allocation and assignment of Internet Protocol addresses


2)  The authority to add new names to the top level of the Internet domain name hierarchy


3)  The responsibility for operating root servers that distribute authoritative information about the content of the top level of the domain name space




Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA)

Internet Corporation  for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)

Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)




More details: The IFWP (International Forum on the White Paper) was a series of international workshops designed to bring together the various diverse stakeholder groups and experts in corporate law and trusts to:


identify and articulate the parties, issues, and views; and


prepare a model, set of common principles, structure and general charter provisions for the formation of an Internet Assigned Numbers Corporation (IANA) or Trust to meet the specifications of the June 5, 1998 U.S. Department of Commerce Statement of Policy on the Management of Internet Names and Addresses.


Culminating this process, on September 17, 1998, IANA and Network Solutions, Inc., jointly published a draft proposal (Iteration 4) for a California non-profit public benefit corporation called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, to coordinate the administration of domain names and IP addresses.


EuroISPA, the European Internet Services Providers Association, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation recommended modifications to the NSI/IANA framework draft.


On September 19-20, 1998, a group of IFWP participants gathered at an open meeting in Boston to reconcile the NSI/IANA draft with the IFWP consensus points. The recommendations of the Boston Working Group included an overview and detailed changes to the Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation.


On September 28, 1998, IANA issued Iteration 5 of the ICANN Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation without the participation of NSI.


In the first week of October, 1998, the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration received three bylaws proposals.



Internet Protocol addresses (IP addresses) are arguably the most fundamental resource required for the exchange of information over the Internet. Each device exchanging information over the Internet possesses a unique binary number identifying its virtual location, either assigned temporarily for a session or assigned permanently. Internet routers use IP addresses to determine how to route packets over the Internet. This is somewhat analogous to the postal system’s dependence on unique physical addresses. Under the longstanding standard for Internet addresses, called Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4),4 each binary address is a fixed 32 bits in length. This provides a reserve of 232, or approximately 4.3 billion unique Internet addresses. In 1990, the Internet standards community identified the potential depletion of addresses as a crucial design concern and the IETF recommended a new protocol, Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) to expand the number of available addresses. IPv6 extends the length of each address from 32 to 128 bits, supplying 2128, or 340 decillion addresses. Despite the longstanding availability of IPv6 and for a variety of political and technical reasons, the upgrade to IPv6 has barely begun on any global scale.





The most high-profile Internet governance controversies in this area have involved institutional and international power struggles over DNS control and corresponding issues related to legitimacy, democracy, and jurisdiction (Mueller 2002, Paré 2003). A significant part of these debates has involved the historical ties between ICANN and the United States government in the context of growing Internet internationalization. The controversy over U.S. ties to control of the domain name system continues to be a heated topic in international policy debates about Internet governance



To oversimplify the DNS, it is an enormous, hierarchical database management system (DBMS) distributed globally across countless servers. The Internet’s root name servers contain a master file known as the root zone file itemizing the IP addresses and associated names of the official DNS servers for all toplevel domains (TLDs): generic ones like .com, .edu, .gov, etc. and country codes, or ccTLDs such as .cn for China or .uk for the United Kingdom. DNS management and domain name administration has always been a central task of Internet governance.




Another central Internet governance function is the development of Internet technical protocols, the standards that enable interoperability among information technologies. The Internet "works" because it is universally based upon a common protocological language. Protocols are sometimes considered difficult to grasp because they are intangible and often invisible to Internet users. They are not software and they are not material hardware. They are closer to text (Galloway 2004). Protocols are standards that technology developers use to manufacture products that will inherently be compatible with other products based on the same standards. Routine Internet use involves the direct engagement of hundreds of standards ranging from Bluetooth wireless, Wi-Fi standards, the MP3 format for encoding and compressing audio files, an array of VoIP protocols, HTTP for information exchange among web browsers and servers, and the fundamental TCP/IP protocols on which the Internet relies at the network and transport layer.





The Internet Engineering Task Force is the institution that has developed the core networking protocols for the Internet, including IPv4, IPv6, TCP, UDP, and countless other standards. Much Internet governance scholarship about protocols has focused on this entity (e.g. Froomkin 2003). But the standards developed by the IETF are only part of a vast protocol ecosystem required to provide ‘end to end’ interoperability for voice, video, data, and images over the Internet. For example, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) sets application layer standards for the web. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) sets Internet related standards in areas such as security and voice over the Internet. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) develops vital specifications such as the Ethernet LAN standards and the Wi-Fi family of standards. Countless other entities develop specifications for the technologies that collectively enable the transmission of information over the Internet: including national standards bodies such as the Standardization Administration of China (SAC); the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG); the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG); and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).




Both the Internet’s architecture and its governance are constantly changing.  The  content and computing devices  to which end users are exposed

constitute only the surface of a massive  underlying infrastructure of networks, services, and institutions that keep the Internet operational.  Most of this material  and virtual  architecture is comprised of private information intermediaries such as network operators, exchange points, search engines hosting services, ecommerce platforms, and social media providers. Despite the privatized and somewhat autonomous nature of these network components, global coordination is necessary to keep the overall Internet operational. For example, global technical standardization ensures interoperability; cybersecurity governance maintains stability and authentication; and centralized coordination ensures that each Internet name and number is globally unique. These, and other tasks necessary to keep the Internet operational, as well as the substantive public policy issues that arise around these functions, are collectively referred to as “global Internet governance.” Efforts to study and practice Internet governance start, virtually without exception, from the premise that the Internet is governed by an innovative, unusual (perhaps unique) multistakeholder’ model. (deNardis, 2013)




The economic effects of compatibility standards in information technology have been studied since before the advent of Web (David and Greenstein 1990). The open publication of Internet standards with minimal intellectual property restrictions has enabled rapid innovation and has generally produced the market effect of full competition among companies developing products based on these standards. Conversely, more proprietary standards can restrict competition, be used as non-tariff barriers to trade or, arguably, slow innovation.




But standards can have public interest effects and are established not by legislatures but by private standards setting institutions


The evolution of the Internet’s architecture and of Internet governance is creating more complicated conditions. A single device obviously integrates numerous functions – voice, video, text messaging, imaging, and is able to connect to multiple networks like GSM cellular networks, Wi-Fi, or global positioning systems (GPS). These single devices can embed hundreds of standards, many of them now royalty bearing. This increasing integration of royalty-bearing standards into the Internet landscape can have effects on innovation, on economic competition, and on costs to end users (Kobayahi et al. 2009). Lemley has described the problem of patent owner hold-up, particularly in the technical standardization context, as “the central public policy problem in intellectual property law today.” (Lemley 2007: 149) An additional complexity is that standards-setting institutions, even those in the same industry, all have different policies about net property regulation (Lemley 2002).


The complexity in Internet standards environments is accompanied by the use of intellectual property laden standards as alternative trade barriers in global markets (Gibson 2007). The extent to which intellectual property rights are increasingly embedded in Internet-related standards, and the empirical implications of this phenomenon, is a critical topic of inquiry for Internet governance.



A related question involves copyright protection for Internet-related standards. Do standards-setting organizations have adequate incentives to develop standards without recourse to copyright protection of the standards, once developed? Because standards have to be universally adopted to achieve desired interoperability, copyright restrictions can amount to monopoly rents that exploit the principle of universality. In the context of Internet standardization, traditional protocols, such as those developed by the IETF and W3C, are freely available without copyright protections. Other standards, such as those developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), impose a charge for accessing a standard or for reproducing the standards.


There are at least three examples of private industry Internet governance at the level of infrastructure management that could benefit from additional research and empirical analysis: 1) private sector Internet backbone peering agreements; 2) network management via deep packet inspection; and 3) private industry use of trade secrecy laws to control the flow of information online.


Much less scholarly attention has been given to the Internet’s backbone infrastructure. The Internet is a collection of IP networks owned and operated by private telecommunications companies such as British Telecom, Korea Telecom, Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and many others. These companies operate hundreds of thousands of miles of transmission facilities, including terrestrial fiber optics, microwave facilities, submarine fiber cable, and satellite links. These backbone facilities aggregate Internet traffic and transmit bits over backbones at rates upwards of 40 Gbps (e.g. OC768 fiber optic transmission). For the Internet to successfully operate, Internet backbones obviously must interconnect.


Independent commercial networks conjoin either at private Internet connection points between two companies or at multiparty Internet exchange points (IXPs). Information from one service provider’s network flows seamlessly through another provider’s network through highspeed fiber optic cable connected to the shared switching equipment at IXPs. These IXPs are the physical junctures where different companies' backbone trunks interconnect, exchange Internet packets and route them toward their appropriate destinations. For example, Google, Sprint, Level3, and Yahoo all connect through DECIX in Germany.


Other interconnection points involve private arrangements between two telecommunications companies to connect their respective IP networks for the purpose of exchanging Internet traffic. Making this connection at private interconnection points requires physical interconnectivity and equipment but it also involves agreements about cost, responsibilities, and performance.


There are generally two types of agreements peering agreements and transit agreements. "Peering agreements" refer to mutually beneficial arrangements whereby no money is exchanged among companies agreeing to exchange traffic at interconnection points. In a transit agreement, one telecommunications company agrees to pay a backbone provider for interconnection. Transit agreements often involve a smaller company paying a larger company in exchange for this private interconnection.


The motivation for peering agreements has an obvious economic as well as technical basis. Service providers normally require a number of interconnection points to the global Internet to provide adequate service to their customers.


If a new company, or a small company, solicits a peering agreement from a large backbone provider, one can easily envision why the larger company would not find the agreement mutually beneficially. The larger would not gain much compared to the smaller or start-up company. So there is incentive to have the net dominated by large corporate players who generate serious money/profits.





International Trade, States and DPI

Deep packet Inspection: DPI views all of an Internet user’s activity including the content of web searches, file transfers, blog postings, and email. This type of network intrusion into information payload raises a variety of questions.


The most publicized instances of DPI have involved the adserving practices of service providers in Europe and the United States designed to provide highly targeted marketing based on what a customer views or does on the Internet. This  raised concerns about state use of deep packet inspection for Internet censorship.


When network providers use DPI to identify and prioritize certain types of traffic on their own networks, no third party becomes systematically aware of this intervention (and presumably to undermine net neutrality)




The use of trade secrecy laws in Internet search and other information mediation is another emerging area that is of concern. This is a concern particularly within architectural components of the Internet that organize or manipulate the flow of information. Search engines provide the best example of this because they use tradesecret protected techniques related to the algorithmic sorting and ranking of information. Companies like Google often invoke trade secrecy to protect themselves, particularly in litigation matters, from disclosing information about how these technologies and algorithms work



Now challenged in the EU courts. Due to many complaints about how Google in particular creates the algorithms that determine which web pages come up first in a search, companies have taken cases to the EU courts to argue that there is a complete lack of transparency by Google as to how they programme their searching systems and that the system may not be fair i.e. again net neutral (in another sense than simply neutrality with regard to web access and speed)



all areas of Internet governance, regardless of dominant actor, contain an inherent tension between forces striving for interoperability and openness and forces striving for proprietary approaches and information enclosure (Werbach 2008).


This inherent conflict enters, to a greater or lesser degree, nearly all of the current controversies in telecommunications policy, critical Internet resources, security, standards, and intellectual property rights. This tension is especially present in private industry Internet governance contexts. Trade secrecy in information intermediation is inherently closed. The possible escalation of interconnection patents at IXPs is another move toward more proprietary norms. The tradition of Internet designers has been to publicize information about the decisions that led to design choices and administrative procedures. Private industry Internet governance topics are much less transparent. The implication is that there could be a resurgence of proprietary values and a diminishment of Internet governance transparency.


This then is a deep-level challenge to the utopian hope that the Internet was transparent, neutral open and free to use for the public benefit – that Lessig and Benkler argue for as opposed to Mueller and de Nardis who, though they would like to see an open net, are not convinced that it is going to happen when the direction of development is towards closure, lack of transparency and corporate control.




The United Nations, the ITU, and dominant multinational Internet companies have all espoused similar valorizations of multistakeholderism. Discourse around “multistakeholderism” reflects longstanding international tensions about administrative control of the Internet. Most of this concern has centered on tensions over the historic relationship between the United States Department of Commerce, specifically the National elecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and control of a narrow but important set of Internet governance functions including oversight of the Internet’s root zone file that definitively tracks the list of names and IP addresses of all the authoritative servers for top-level domains (e.g. .com, .edu., .uk).


The symbolic and practical implications of this American oversight have created pressure for greater internationalization of this narrow function and

have more generally created tension in Internet governance debates. Concerns about United States surveillance practices – such as the National Security Agency’s PRISM data mining program – have drawn even further attention to the geopolitics of Internet governance. (deNardis, 2013)






The Rise of Internet law as the struggle between International virtual commons and National interests:




(Wu on Net governance, p.30)







The tale of french law over yahoo - Knobel, nazis, yahoo and the net as national/International





Multi-national Corporation, International Trade and the Internet:






Global flows of goods, capital, people and technology are leading to convergence across countries in the organization of economic activities Another view is that the impact of these forces on individual countries will vary according to the economic, political and social context of the country, and as a result, there will remain significant national differences in economic organization.


At the global environment level, processes such as globalization of production and markets, multinational corporation (MNC) strategies and technical innovation are driving all countries and industry sectors toward the adoption of Internet and e-business innovations.


In addition, there is a global flow of information about “best practices” or effective e-business models produced by the IT industry, consultancies, academics and the

business press - the global e-business movement. The intermediating factors between the global environment and outcomes refer to national factors which constrain or enhance innovation outcomes.


The first is the national environment, including wealth, industry structure, information infrastructure, financial systems, human resources, social and cultural factors, and consumer preferences.


The second is national policy, including liberalization of telecommunications and IT markets, government investment in information infrastructure, and regulations such as

consumer protection and intellectual property rights protection.


The global diffusion of e-business is a process driven by a variety of forces.



1) the strategies of multinational corporations and the related growth of global competition,


2) the development of global production networks,


3) international trade liberalization regimes such as the World Trade Organization,


4) the creation of a low-cost global information and communications infrastructure, and


5) an “e-business movement” driven by the IT industry and various opinion leaders.



MNCs are powerful global institutions that drive the diffusion of new technologies and business practices in two ways.


1)  they bring resources, including capital, knowledge and their own IT-based business practices, wherever they operate and diffuse these resources to their employees

and to local firms with which they do business.


2) MNCs bring competition to local markets, creating pressure for local firms to adopt these technologies and business practices in order to survive.



3) They drive e-business diffusion through their coordination of global production networks. Production in manufacturing industries such as autos, electronics, textiles and toys has extended

across national borders and become increasingly globalized or regionalized. During the last two decades, global production networks have expanded into developing regions such as Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Many service industries have also begun to globalize in recent years, with call centres, IT services, software production and business process outsourcing (BPO) moving to diverse places such as India, Ireland, Israel, Russia, the Caribbean and the Philippines



4) The integration of countries into global production networks often involves the adoption of e-business as a condition for participation.


5) Institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have been instrumental in creating more open rules and effective regulations for trade, investment, telecommunications and intellectual property.


6) The WTO has extended global trade rules to include services, such as financial services and telecommunications, helping to provide a better technical and financial infrastructure to

support e-business.


7) The ITU has promoted telecommunications liberalization and the expansion of low-cost telecommunications, wireless and Internet services to developing countries. Lower costs and greater diffusion of telecommunications and the Internet have facilitated the global expansion of e-business and also supported IT-enabled business strategies such as offshore outsourcing of business operations.


8) Under the WTO agreements on the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) set common international rules for intellectual property protection. These are important in building the necessary confidence for intellectual property holders to provide more content online, and encourage greater production of intellectual property worldwide.


MNCs try to standardize internal practices worldwide and push their suppliers and partners to align processes and technologies with those of the MNC. Countries that sign WTO and other agreements are forced to accept global norms that reduce differences in national policies.







By 2016, there will be 3 billion Internet users globally—almost half  the world’s population. The Internet economy will reach $4.2 trillion  in the G-20 economies. If it were a national economy, the Internet  economy would rank in the world’s top five, behind only the U.S.,  China, Japan, and India, and ahead of Germany. Across the G-20, it already amounted to 4.1 percent of GDP, or $2.3 trillion, in 2010—surpassing the economies of Italy and Brazil. The Internet is contributing

up to 8 percent of GDP in some economies, powering growth, and creating jobs


"The United States is the largest player in the global Internet supply ecosystem, capturing more than 30 percent of global Internet revenues and more than 40 percent of net income. It is also the country with the most balanced structure within the global ecosystem among the 13 countries studied, garnering relatively equal contributions from hardware, software and services, and telecommunications. The United Kingdom and Sweden are changing the game, in part driven by the importance and the performance of their telecom operators. India and China are strengthening their position in the global Internet ecosystem rapidly with growth rates of more than 20 percent. France, Canada, and Germany have an opportunity to leverage their strong Internet usage to increase their presence in the supply ecosystem. Other Asian countries are rapidly accelerating their influence on the Internet economy at faster rates than Japan. Brazil, Russia and Italy are in the early stages of Internet supply. They have strong potential for growth." (McKinsey report, 2015)




GDP/Net chart (p.8)