Internet Governance and Critical Resources

  • Weber R
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Internet governance must play an important role in the allocation of critical resources. An equal and non-discriminatory allocation of technically or financially restricted resources is desirable. Voices in the civil society often address the problem of critical resources of the Internet without delineating a clear definition of the notion. For example, Article 72 lit. (j) of the Tunis Agenda which became the mandate of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) stresses that it is important to discuss issues related to critical Internet resources without providing for a definition. It appears to be obvious that the term critical resources does not only describe a technical access topic, but also the administration of the Internets naming and addressing of domains. Therefore, critical Internet resources should be understood in a way allowing the inclusion of the institutional and human elements as fundamental for the functioning of the Internet, such as organizations, regulatory frameworks and users. Several technical components of the Internet play a crucial role for the smooth execution of Internet communications and information exchanges. In particular, the following components must be taken into account: Root servers: Effective root server operations are an important topic in providing a stable and secure, globally interoperable Internet. So far, their operation functions without any formal relationship with any authority and the geographical distribution of root servers is highly uneven. Backbone structures: The different networks building the Internet backbone and their connection facilities do not meet cost efficiency and service quality criteria best due to the geographical setting; Internet service providers are also not bound to enter into direct traffic exchange relationships. Broadband access: The access to broadband services is an important element in avoiding info-exclusion and in ensuring the participation of the civil society; advanced applications and services can improve many sectors such as business, administration, education, etc. The realization of the principle of net neutrality would avoid that network management techniques lead to inadequate traffic prioritization and cause anticompetitive practices such as unfair discrimination. Transition to IPv6: The implementation of IPv6 is essential for the connectivity of networks and thereby for granting the civil society adequate access to the Internet. Domain Name address system: Since domain names can become a scarce resource, governance issues are of importance; furthermore, multilingualism in cyberspace is a key concept to ensure culture diversity and participation in Internet information exchanges. As outlined, certain elements of the information and communication infrastructure are scarce resources; this phenomenon is not completely new in the international legal order since the birth of the Internet age. Other legal frameworks are available and inspiration can be drawn from the international law related to common resources. The Declaration on Principles Guiding Relations between Participating States as of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, released under the auspices of the OSCE, encompasses the objective of having the universal significance of human rights and fundamental freedoms accepted, a necessity in order to achieve justice and wellbeing and ensuring the development of friendly relations and cooperation among States. The UN Convention on the Law on the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses of 1997 provides for rules which should lead to a reasonable use of international watercourses for all States concerned and attain their optimal and sustainable utilization. The Convention on the Transboundary Effect of Industrial Accidents of 1992 obliges the States to take proper preventive measures and enhance cooperation in order to protect human beings and the environment against industrial accidents. The manifold agreements on labor standards, released by the International Labor Organization, envisage realizing an equitable and fair use of labor forces in a humane way. The Convention on Cybercrime, released by the Council of Europe in 2001, provides for mutual assistance and measures in order to combat cyber-attacks by preventive action. All mentioned sources of international law have a common objective, namely the adequate use of scarce resources, leading to their equitable and fair allocation as well as enabling common participation within the civil society. These principles are also well designed to be realized in Internet governance. The research of the author shows to what extent the principles could be introduced into the IGF deliberations.




Weber, R. H. (2009). Internet Governance and Critical Resources. In 2nd International Giganet Workshop. Brussels, Belgium.

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