'Although it is inevitable national states increasingly want to shape 'the internet' in their own image, we will need to find ways to guarantee the general operability of the 'public core' of the internet', the authors state in the report.
Their proposed solution is granting core infrastructure like the internet protocol suite and the Domain Name System (DNS) the status of global public good. In other words, a good that should be available to everyone, and oughtn't be messed with by anyone.
To get there, the entire world needs to get behind this idea. It is time, therefore, to kick-start a coordinated international discussion about internet governance, the authors write. Even though heat maps of the internet still light up the brighest in Europe and the United States, the platforms where these talks take place should reflect the internet's demographic shift from North and West to East and South.
But not only nation states should have a seat at the table, corporate players like Google and Apple - considering the impact they have on the internet and their technical expertise - and representatives of civil society like NGOs should be actively involved as well.
The report The Public Core of the Internet (PDF, in Dutch*) is published by the The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (De Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid, WRR), an independent advisory body for the Dutch government. It recommends The Netherlands makes internet governance a pilar of foreign policy to achieve the above mentioned goals through diplomacy.
Pressure on the internet technical community
For a long time, the administration of the internet has been primarily in the hands of the technical community, a host of organizations and forums such as ICANN and the Internet Engineering Task Force. But, the authors note, that community has come under pressure as governments increasingly claim regulatory power in the digital domain.
At first governments were mainly concerned with exercising control over the commercial aspect of the internet such as copyright enforcement. Then they felt it was their job to regulate the behavior of citizens, the Great Firewall of Cameron being a fine example. And, late to the game but rising to prominence fast, meddling in the name of national security.
When concocting means to realize these aims, the oft not so tech-savvy politicians propose legislation that would require interference with protocols and standards that are central to the internet's functions. The report lists a number of examples, for instance blocking at the DNS level to enforce copyright, which was in the initial design of the controversial SOPA and PIPA laws proposed in the United States Congress. Another area where states' interests clash with maintaining the resilience of the internet is the deliberate compromise of standards, protocols, hardware and software by the hands of security agencies, according to the report.
Practice what you preach
To ensure a healthy and resilient internet for all, the international community should make haste formulating a new agenda for internet governance and declare key internet protocols a global public good, the authors argue. Advocating these goals should be central to Dutch foreign policy. But, the authors warn, in order to assert its clout in diplomatic circles, the country should practice what it preaches.
The Netherlands was one of the first countries to sign net neutrality into law, so diplomats have that card to play. But the government is currently working on a law that would allow the Dutch security agencies to indiscriminately collect and analyze internet and mobile phone traffic. That sure weakens the hand when playing at the diplomatic table.
* A Policy Brief in English on this report will be available on the WRR website as from 16 April 2015 when The Netherlands will host the fourth Global Conference on Cyberspace 2015.
Source: The Public Core of the Internet