Internet Fragmentation Series – Summary Report
Part One – Is The Internet Fragmenting?
Part Two – The Technical Lens
Part Three – The Business Lens
Part Four – The Policy Lens
Part One – Is the Internet Fragmenting?
On May 10, 2016, Microsoft and The Greater Washington DC Chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC-DC) held a panel discussion on “Is the Internet fragmenting?” with Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda, Kathryn Brown, Dr. Laura DeNardis, Danil Kerimi, and Jeremy West. Paul Mitchell moderated the event, bringing out the different perspectives on Internet fragmentation, its consequences, and how to frame and address the phenomenon. As this is the first dialogue in a series of four on Internet fragmentation, it provided an overview of the issue and set the context for the upcoming events, which will cover the technical, commercial, and political dimensions of Internet fragmentation in more detail.
As the keynote speaker, Ambassador Sepulveda started the conversation by stating that an “open Internet is the backbone of the digital economy.” According to McKinsey, the Internet contributes to 5-9% of GDP in developed countries. These benefits may be threatened by fragmentation measures that include, for example, restriction of trans-border flow of data andvarious national limits to control the Internet within their borders. According to McKinsey, data flow restrictions can lead to 250-450 billion loss of GDP growth in US dollars. In order to support the open and interoperable Internet, we should close the digital divide gap by carrying out the Global Connect Initiative; solving cyber issues, such as insecurity of the Internet; making policy discussion more inclusive; introducing clear definitions; and gathering data to demonstrate the importance of the open Internet. Finally, Ambassador Sepulveda underlined that Internet fragmentation requires a holistic approach and constant vigilance due to its complex structure.
Kathryn Brown explained that there were two major sources of fragmentation: lack of the world’s access to the Internet, and security problems that result in trust issues in the Internet. The solution lies in constantly proving to the world that the multistakeholder approach is the best apprach to Internet governance. Advocates of the open Internet should demonstrate to their opponents that a non-fragmented Internet benefits not only the world economy at large, but also every state locally.
According to Dr. Laura DeNardis, the Global Commission on Internet Governance is working on policy recommendations that would move the world away from fragmentation and closer to universality through eliminating physical (differences in access rates), logical (IPv4 vs. IPv6), content (censorship), and exogenous (data localization requirements) barriers. Also, Dr. DeNardis pointed out that fragmentation was not only about economic issues but also about civil liberties, freedom of expression, access to knowledge, and privacy.
Danil Kerimi summarized the approach to Internet fragmentation proposed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in its white paper “Internet Fragmentation: an Overview.” The WEF’s methodology framed Internet fragmentation into technological, government, and commercial elements, allowing experts to look at the complex issue of fragmentation in various dimensions. Mr. Kerimi agrees that this methodology is only one of many and may not be perfect. The WEF paper is part of its Future of the Internet Project that is aimed at bringing together various stakeholders to address cyber issues and to raise public awareness of Internet-related matters.
Jeremy West explained that the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is interested in Internet fragmentation because the Organization recognized the link between social welfare and economic growth on the one hand and Internet openness on the other. However, the OECD’s interest in Internet is not new. In 2008 the OECD published “The Seoul Declaration for The Future of The Internet Economy” followed by “OECD Council Recommendation on Principles for Internet Policy Making” in 2011. Mr. West suggested that the best way to fight fragmentation was to provide advocates of various fragmentary policies and technologies with qualitative and quantitative evidence that would demonstrate the importance of an open Internet for the world economy.
Ambassador Sepulveda provided more details on the Global Connect Initiative, a joint effort of the State Department and the World Bank aimed at addressing the problem of digital connectivity by bringing stakeholders together and raising awareness that connectivity is a necessity for sustainable economic development, not a luxury. The Ambassador also stressed that every sovereign state would always try to impose local rules on the Internet; however, sovereignty should not be an excuse to violate basic human rights online.
During the Q&A session, the audience raised questions about China and Russia, terrorism and Internet, the IANA transition, open government partnership, technological fragmentation, privacy vs. fragmentation, and responsibility for an open Internet. All the panelists expressed their positive attitude towards the future of the Internet and agreed that the problem of fragmentation could be solved through supporting the multistakeholder approach, increasing cooperation and collaboration, regaining public trust, gathering evidence of the benefits of an open Internet, and ensuring transition to IPv6 as soon as possible with all actors involved.
At the end of the discussion, the panelists offered a few closing remarks. Laura DeNardis urged the audience to think about the government use of the Internet (backdoors, censorship, local domain names, etc.) that could lead to its fragmentation. Jeremy West encouraged people to keep an eye on the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy: Innovation, Growth and Social Prosperity on June 21-23, 2016 when the OECD will release their report on the economic impact of cross-border data flow. Danil Kerimi once again underlined the importance of being vigilant to avoid fragmentation. Kathryn Brown advised the audience to keep innovating and the importance of maintaining the underlying principles of the Internet. Ambassador Sepulveda warned everyone that there was no need in ceasing engagement of those who disagree with advocates of the open Internet; on the contrary, we should promote more engagement and inclusiveness.
- A big part of the challenge stems from policy that is misaligned with technology.
- Much of the tension is the result of governments trying to impose sovereignty over elements of the Internet.
- Correspondingly, technology is value neutral, and only informed policy can create solutions to many of the issues driving fragmentary pressures.
- The Internet is growing and evolving rapidly. Implementing new technologies to keep up with this is challenging and can cause fragmentary pressures. The shortage of ipV4 addresses and the transition to ipV6 addresses is an example.
- Internet innovations require technology standardization processes that are voluntary, and not mandated by inter-governmental organizations.
The keynote speaker, Dr. David Farber, started the dialogue stating that fragmentation is a relatively recent phenomenon. Initially, the Internet was designed to connect researchers from around the world, enabling them to share information and results. As such, issues such as security and privacy were not addressed. Researchers were focused on how to make the Internet work – this is still the primary focus of the technical community, and thus fragmentation is more political than technical. Differing views on IPR, privacy, and security drive government policy and regulations that fragment the Internet. As a result, Dr. Farber predicts even more fragmentation in the future. First, in the protocol structure, the machines we use, and software are not robust enough and thus it is hard to implement changes. Second, security will be one of the biggest causes of fragmentations. Security concerns will make countries hesitant to connect to networks and resources in other countries unless there is assurance that their information and systems won’t be compromised. Consequently, more and more governments will try to impose their own encryption standards and require storage of their citizens’ data either in a secure place, or more commonly, within their sovereign borders. These issues are not unsolvable technically, but are very challenging on the policy level.
Dr. Milton Mueller did not think that the Internet is in danger of any major fragmentation technically. The economic and technical benefits of compatibility are what makes the system more valuable. Fragmentation is cause by mis-alignment between political goals and technology, e.g., when governments try to bring Internet communications under their territorial control. Data localization is an example. It fragments the service of cloud providers and destroys efficiencies, but doesn’t break the Internet. This is an example of misalignment between political control and technical capabilities. The big danger is that governments want to make the global Internet match their maps of the territorial sovereignty.
Mr. Elliot Lear discussed some of the challenges intrinsic to having one stable technical layer. A stable layer 3 allows anyone to connect on layer 3 with anyone else with only a few exceptions. The shortage of IPv4 addresses was the primary reason for the development of IPv6. However, this transition has been very slow and difficult – without some very stark regulations, this can cause fragmentation. Higher layer fragmentation, however, can get solved by the market. For example, with Instant Messaging, there are numerous standards and applications. However, market needs have driven the development of programs that can provide interoperability between these applications.
Mr. Lear mentioned that government can cause fragmentation. For example, if one government mandates a certain type of encryption and another mandates a different type, people will not be able to connect between the two. Another example is if one government mandates a particular routing paradigm and another mandates a different one. We saw a little of this friction between ITU and IETF between 2010 and 2012.
Ms. Suzanne Woolf stated that even asking these questions assumes a certain level of interoperability in the infrastructure and there are quite a few challenges in maintaining stability of the infrastructure as the Internet continues to grow and evolve. Just keeping up is a big challenge, and it can be very difficult to deploy new technologies, e.g., the challenges in updating the DNS protocol standards. There can be good reasons within networks for deploying new technologies that can inadvertently create challenges to the infrastructure, such as networks that create fast lanes for select contents. Ms. Wolfe is a big proponent of open standards and open source as keys to maintaining interoperability and interconnection.
Dr. Eric Burger framed fragmentation as what happens when a country cuts itself off from the Internet deliberately. Technology is neutral – neither good nor evil. The same spam filters that are used by service providers to protect consumers from harmful codes can be used by governments to block dissent. The great firewall of China was deployed by the government to protect their citizens from malware as well as control dissent. A deeper problem occurs when the bad guys figure out ways around spam filters and use encryption techniques. The good guys have to look deeper to identify sources of disruption. Again, the same tools that are used for to disrupt criminal activity can be used to silence dissent. Good policy and regulations are necessary.
According to Ms. Micaela Klein, much of the misalignment, as noted earlier in the discussion, is related geopolitics rather than technology. Governments are trying to retain power in a more decentralized world, especially in countries that feel that development has favored western nations, and so they gravitate towards centralized inter-governmental institutions such as the UN. Data localization requirements are the results of protectionist policies.
Technology standardizations is a very relevant part of this discussion. Governments are leveraging inter-governmental institutions such as ITU to drive standardization of technologies that will give them competitive advantages, instead of participating in the traditional voluntary technical standards organizations such as the IETF. Instead of technical discussion on interoperability and development of voluntary standards, specific standards are mandated. This process can lead to choking innovation. This will impact underserved countries more than it will the U.S.
- Companies of all sizes in all sectors can’t function if they can’t move data. The US-EU Privacy Shield agreement only addresses a small piece of the problem.
- Small businesses are the engines of economic growth; and the Internet allows for small companies to scale like big companies. The centralization of data is key to this. Restrictions on data flow hurt small businesses and the economy.
- It’s important to focus on preventing fragmentation on the technical layer, such as countries trying to create alternative DNS systems. This has human and economic rights implications because users in those countries are not able to access the same information as people in other countries.
- There are legitimate privacy concerns, and they need to be balanced against the need for cross-border data flow to enable economic growth.
- Solutions need to address the actual problems that need to be solved in ways that don’t fragment the Internet.
- We need to focus on providing information and solutions that work, especially to those well-intentioned, yet ill-informed policy makers.
- Stakeholders need to collaborate to help policy stakeholders and policy makers to become well-informed on the Internet, to avoid ill-informed policy decisions that can fragment the Internet and adversely impact economic growth and human rights.
- Overall, the panelists agreed that stakeholders should focus on developing trust in the digital economy and a truly global internet. By engaging government, civil society, and businesses across the world, the well-intentioned and well-informed actors can build that necessary trust and preserve an internet that has the potential to benefit everyone.
The panelists generally agreed that Internet fragmentation will have serious economic and human rights related consequences for countless people across the globe. Ted Dean started the discussion by stating that all companies in all industries are dependent on cross-border data flow, and that dependence will continue to grow with the increasing pervasiveness of cloud computing and the internet of things. Misconceptions in Europe that data flows only affect large US technology companies could hurt businesses both small and large on both sides of the Atlantic. The failure of Safe Harbor led to closer examinations of what happens if data is not able to flow, and revealed an unappealing view. Fortunately, successful negotiation of the US-EU Privacy Shield provided an alternative with Europe, but there are countries all over the world where these issues have not been addressed. Companies can’t function if they can’t move data. Mr. Dean also described how focus on privacy concerns has left many other equally important concerns unresolved. In the future, it is important to really parse the issues and make sure that policies do not have negative impacts on business development and economic growth at a macro level.
Jonathan Zuck pointed out that the Internet allows small businesses to behave like big ones. The same thing is happening in the app space. This is one of the key factors of small business success on the Internet. App developers often encounter data protection problems moving the data and suddenly their applications cannot scale. Systems with more localization will hurt entrepreneurs and small businesses the most. Small businesses are the biggest economic growth and stability drivers after a recession, and they are most impacted by data restrictions. Small businesses also promote distributed economic resources. For instance, ACT has members in every congressional district. There is distribution of resources around the country – this is a function of being able to leverage the Internet to scale. This is also a function of phase 1 of the app ecosystem – local apps, loaded on to the phone that worked off of local data. Phase 2 of the app ecosystem involves client server interaction for information. Anything that causes fragmentation of the Internet will hurt future app development and is bad for innovation, small businesses, and the economy. According to Mr. Zuck, the two main causes of Internet fragmentation are censorship and protectionism. Legitimate concerns such as privacy are utilized as a justification for policy makers with other goals. Issues such as privacy can and should be addressed without fragmentation.
Robert Pepper discussed how connectivity brings about tremendous economic development. For example, 2 million small businesses in India have Facebook accounts and promote their businesses on Facebook. Connecting the unconnected is thus a huge problem to be solved, but there is an income inequality paradox in connectivity. When a country reaches a threshold where 24-25% of its population is connected, as more people connect, there is an income multiplier, the country grows its GDP and income inequality between countries shrinks. However, as connectivity continues to rise, the income inequality gap will also increase within that country because while incomes rise for the connected, the unconnected are increasingly left behind. This disparity will only grow larger as an economy continues to develop. Thus, the only solution is to connect everyone. Research shows that many people who are not connecting are not connecting because they don’t see the value, not because of affordability. So the first step is to increase awareness of the benefits. A main challenge is introducing people to the Internet in ways that are pro-consumer and not anti-competitive. There are ways this can be done, many related to zero rating. An example of a zero rating service is Amazon kindle; Amazon has a contract with AT&T to provide the connection for Kindle content which consumers are not billed for. This is an example of zero rating. There are many other examples. At the application layer, there are different business models that have different impacts. For example, Netflix has different arrangements with different studios who have varying release windows, so not everyone everywhere can get the same content on Netflix. These are business decisions and not fragmentation. Given the complexity of Internet fragmentation, there are many well-intentioned but ill-informed policy stakeholders. One focus going forward should be to work with the ill-informed to really determine the best policy choices, lest the future of the internet be at the mercy of the well-informed and ill-intentioned.
Carolina Rossini explained that when thinking about fragmentation, one needs to look deeper into freedom of expression and economic rights, which are also a part of human rights. It is important to first clearly define fragmentation and to distinguish what type of fragmentation is at issue. Are we talking about technical fragmentation which is the most dangerous kind, like when countries try to implement an alternative DNS systems – or are we talking about fragmentation to users of content and applications being delivered to them? It is important to have common standards. This goes beyond freedom of expression towards freedom of economic opportunity. From the civil society perspective, this is not a distraction from the surveillance and encryption issues, but a good positive agenda to pursue. There are many people coming out of the WSIS process who are paying attention to the importance of connectivity. Civil society wants to have a voice, play a role in “what type of connectivity” shapes policy and business discussions and is developing a series of standards so that when international banks fund these connectivity initiatives, they take privacy and freedom of expression into consideration. Using alternative (and thus fragmented) DNS systems would prevent people from accessing cultural and educational resources and would likely further exacerbate inequality.
The Moderator Carolyn Nguyen asked what are the pressures that are causing fragmentation?
Ted Dean responded that Safe Harbor addressed multiple drivers of fragmentation at once. They needed to be disentangled and dealt with. How do countries deal with legitimate goals like protecting their citizens’ privacy while protecting data flows at the same time? How can this be done in a way that enables trade and growth? We haven’t cracked this problem broadly and the Privacy Shield agreement covers only a piece of it. Part of the problem is protectionism. We need to get this right on a macro policy level because businesses depend on it.
Carolina Rossini stated that we need to consider historical cycles and the impact of the Snowden revelations. There has been an increase in challenges to governments that involve civil rights issues. Governments must allow due process to resolve these issues. For example, with the Microsoft case, the US government was trying to force Microsoft to turn over data that resided outside the US. There are geopolitical implications of going outside existing treaties. The lack of understanding of the geopolitical environment can lead to fragmentation.
Robert Pepper pointed out that very often we have government actions leading to fragmentation. A way to frame this is to use a matrix to evaluate how well informed a government is on the issues that it is developing policies for, and what are its intention. For example, government policies and actions related to connectivity can be classified as well-informed and well-intentioned, or ill-informed and well-intentioned. The latter is unfortunately frequently the case. Recently, a large Asian country discussed why they need local data centers. The actual reason stated was to create jobs and tax revenues. They did not understand what the impact on business and direct foreign investment in their country would be; or that once a data center is built, there are not many jobs in it. Local data requirements for manufacturing increase the costs of production, thus hurting economic growth. In the same matrix are policy decisions that can result from well-informed, but ill-intentioned, and the ill-informed and ill-intentioned—these can result in real chaos.
Jonathan Zuck said that there are two reasons for fragmentation and a lot of excuses. Those reasons are protectionism and censorship. Everything else is an excuse; the excuses provide the justifications for policies that fragment the Internet. For example, the Snowden revelations weren’t revelations to the people who used them as excuses to pass regulations that fragment the Internet. Another were the late hour attempts to block the IANA transition. These are well-informed, bad actors, who would like to see the open internet be less open under multilateral institutions. What better way to bring that about than to show them that the U.S. can’t be trusted with stewardship over ICANN by not honoring our commitment to let the IANA contract expire.
The Moderator then asked if the bulk of this discussion should be aimed at those well-intentioned but ill-informed countries. How can we get information out there and what are the short term and long term calls to action to move the discussion forward?
Ted Dean said that on privacy, there are legitimate policy aims but we haven’t given people confidence that those aims can be met without restricting data flows. A lot of this is just proving that the solutions work, e.g. making sure Privacy Shield works. The ITA is working on cross-border privacy rules in the APEC context to get ahead on this. Privacy Shield is a limited solution between Europe and the US. With APEC, twenty-one Asian economies came to consensus. They crafted a program where companies get certified that they adhere to these rules. We need to make sure these solutions deliver in practice.
Jonathan Zuck said that the key to innovation is experimentation. Success of small businesses happens when we preserve that environment of experimentation.
Robert Pepper pointed out the need to take away the excuses and focus on the well-intentioned, ill-informed countries. There are opportunities to work with them. Most government officials aren’t techies, i.e., they don’t understand routing. Always ask the first order question, what is the problem you’re trying to solve and find real solutions that won’t cause fragmentation. It’s about building trust and long-term relationships and helping to inform the process. There is a lot of work and it needs to be done. This is not the traditional advocacy. We don’t want to move from a multi-stakeholder framework to a multilateral one. The multi-stakeholder model works but it makes a lot of governments nervous. We need to work with these small governments.
Carolina Rossini said that it’s not just about the policy makers. It’s about the consumers and general public as well. They also need to be informed. We need a bottom-up and a top-down approach.
Part Four – The Policy Lens
- There is a natural tension between the bottom up nature of open standards development and the multistakeholder model best suited for the Internet and the top down nature of policy making. This is exemplified by organization such as the ITU.
- Internet openness produces substantial economic benefits, however there is currently a lack of robust data to support this. Such data will help to guide policy in the future.
- Continued interoperability, especially as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow at exponential rates will be essential to achieve the global economic growth and social progress as envisioned by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (STGs). Internet fragmentation is a direct threat to the attainment of those goals.
- Trust in the Internet will be an essential element in sustaining its future, especially as more and more of our lives are online and Internet use is required. People will need to know that their data, financial transactions, health records, etc., are secure to have continued faith in the Internet.
- The Internet is by its nature a great amplifier of human rights because it provides a powerful tool for the freedoms of expression and association, and access to information. Therefore, fragmenting the Internet is detrimental to human rights. .
- The multistakeholder model provides the best framework for people and organizations to work together to ensure the open standards and policies to support them that are necessary to support the continuing evolution of the Internet. It is very important that we provide support and resources to smaller countries that not have the resources to tackle all of the difficult challenges in these endeavors.
The panelists generally agreed that policy makers across the globe need to act to preserve the openness and connectedness of the Internet in a way that strengthens economic and human rights while building trust. A fragmented Internet would likely have adverse economic and human rights consequences.
Andrew Sullivan started the conversation discussing developments in the Internet transport layers, including Google’s QUIC. Historically there were distinct low level transport layers. Now new protocols have moved some of the transport layer into the application layer. Thus distinct layers are mostly mythical today because they are intermingled in deployment. Nightly updates to the end user OS changes the transport used. This radically alters the environment that we are working in, making maintaining interoperation more challenging.
He went on to say that without open standards, there is not the Internet but rather only a proprietary network that goes end to end. There is a difference between an internet (a complex network of proprietary networks) and the Internet (an open network of networks; the framework that generally exists today and that is increasingly under fire). Mr. Sullivan stated that the Internet was designed to be open and that open standards are necessary from the bottom on up. While certain aspects of the Internet are tolerant of fragmentation (e.g. multiple domain systems), the Internet was not build for complete fragmentation.
Micaela Klein discussed the tension between open standards (developing common technical standards to allow for interoperability) and regulations (government controls that potentially fragment the Internet). The UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) developed as a top down organization to manage international telephone systems. It is primarily government led and is increasingly trying to figure out how to evolve to be able to develop Internet standards. The ITU offers a different forum for Internet governance, one that has seen new players and dynamics. Governments are interested in top-down control of the Internet in their own countries while certain government actors, such as telecom regulators, are interested in bolstering declining revenue and power. These approaches both potentially clash with the original, organic, bottom-up process of the Internet’s development. Ms. Klein described how different actors are claiming that the Internet is “broken” and thus are taking advantage of concerns about privacy and crime to fragment the Internet. Overall, the political process of fragmentation is complex and involves several actors and choices.
Jeremy West described how the OECD is studying the social and economic impacts that fragmentation would have. He started by saying that measuring concrete benefits is a complex process but that the OECD has produced reports and conducted empirical work limited to Internet openness but not as of yet to connecting openness to economic benefits. They have had to look to other literature to examine these economic benefits. There are three broad categories of impact: international trade, innovation and entrepreneurship, and productivity and growth and varying degrees of evidence about the economic impact.
Mr. West went on to describe how the literature showed that a fragmented Internet would hurt international trade in several ways. The power of Internet openness to boost international trade is closely tied to the rise in the value of global value chains which rely on data flows to coordinate activity. Thus, fragmentation would decrease their value.
Additionally, fragmentation would have a tremendous negative impact on the value created by digital trade and data flows. He cited a study which concluded that $600 billion (USD) of European Union service trade depend on the openness of the digital economy and the same center also concluded that the breakdown of the Safe Harbor framework could also have resulted in a very large reduction of EU service exports to the US.
Fragmentation would also result in decreased competitiveness and would hinder innovation since innovation is a collaborative process. While the social benefits of the Internet are harder to quantify, it is clear that shutting down the Internet is expensive. Mr. West cited a number of other papers and projects of work in this subject matter. He stated that a major problem is that quantitative data on the economic benefits of Internet openness are scarce and the OECD is currently working on projects to better help governments measure the digital economy. Improved metrics and a broader perspective of Internet openness will help policy makers seize the benefits of an open Internet and develop well-informed policies aimed towards growth and wellbeing.
Cheryl Miller cited a well-received World Economic Forum (WEF)paper on Internet Fragmentation referenced the paper’s six buckets relative to Government Fragmentation. Those buckets are: (1) Content and Censorship; (2) Ecommerce and Trade; (3) National Security; (4) Privacy and Data Protection; (5) Data Localization; and (6) Cybersovereignty.
She went on to discuss the Internet of Things (IoT) and its important link to the UN’s STG’s and Verizon’s outlook on both. Analysts predict exponential growth in connected devices from millions today to over 20 billion by the year 2020. These devices could bring great economic and social benefits to the world but this future faces severe challenges from fragmentation. A lack of consistency and the minefield of conflicting rules and regulations presents real challenges to rolling out new things that connect to the Internet and to each other. Data localization rules disrupt the seamless communications needed for IoT devices and slow growth and development.
Ms. Miller suggested framework for solutions that includes: A flexible and multistakeholder approach to policy; interagency coordination to produce consistency; continuing efforts to build trust; preventing delays in Ipv6; and making sure there aren’t local data retention requirements.
Sally Wentworth identified access and trust as areas that the Internet Society view as essential for the Internet to continue to evolve and grow. She described trust as having four dimensions: (1) user trust (which includes privacy, free expression, confidentiality, consumer protections, and other human rights), (2) technologies that enables trust (encryption is the big issue of the day), (3) trusted networks, and (4) trust in ecosystem development (in other words, access to the decision and policy making process). A lack of resources in smaller countries, is a real problem. Technology requires a series of building blocks and an open standards environment would thus be most productive in further developing an open Internet.
Nathan White focused on the effects Internet fragmentation will continue to have on human rights, both social and economic. The Internet is naturally a powerful tool for free expression, free association, and access to information. With its global reach, it amplifies those rights from an individual to a global level. Thus by definition, fragmenting the Internet harms human right. He made the point that no one who is trying to fragment the Internet is trying have greater human rights.
On the other hand, Mr. White cited the Facebook’s entry to China to illustrate how making cross-border data sharing mandatory also harms human rights. “Fragmentation” is understood in the human rights community as government action that is not beneficial towards human rights. So far, the United States has failed to lead on issues such as encryption and other countries, including China, are filling the vacuum. Going forward, it is important that policy makers frame discussions and incentives to bring people to the table with concerns for human rights. He further discussed how the Internet is a fragile thing, made possible because millions of people and organizations all came together to agree on a common set of standards because it is in our interest to have a global interoperability. He now worries that we are creating incentives that will break up the Internet. We don’t want people to walk away from the table, so the goal has to be greater multistakeholder participation to ensure that we are all making decisions together.
The panelists agreed that getting policy makers and other stake-holders to be well-informed is a challenge in itself. The panelists recommended pushing connectivity, capacity building via common understandings and vocabulary, and not being afraid of multilateral, cross-cutting institutions and processes. Questions raised by the audience raised concerns about building empathetic “human” elements into Internet governance and infrastructure and pointed out how the response to Internet problems such as providing networking for terrorists have been met with a “stop the bad things perspective” whereby complete national control has been taken for granted as a catchall solution. Regulating the connectivity of the Internet in many ways destroys the very purpose of the Internet: free or low cost high speed connectivity. Going forward, the main challenges will involve bringing together the very large and diverse group of stakeholders and developing common voices. Focusing on messaging the benefits of openness as well as the costs of fragmentation will likely have a positive influence. The panelists and many audience members are optimistic that this is happening and will continue to unfold.