[AfrICANN-discuss] The “Internet of Things,” the Internet and Internet Governance

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Wed Oct 17 23:01:57 SAST 2007


The "Internet of Things," the Internet and Internet Governance
Oct 16, 2007 5:52 PM PST | Comments: 1
By Brian Cute

As the second Internet Governance Forum approaches, it is an
appropriate moment to take stock of how the Internet Governance
dialogue has evolved since the conclusion of the WSIS Summit in 2005.
One year after the first IGF in Athens, it is clear that government,
industry and civil society stakeholders are still grappling over the
direction and focus of the IGF. For skeptics who view the IGF as
little more than a talk shop that kicked the Internet Governance "can"
down the road five years, the evolution of this dialogue is of minor
consequence. For those who view the IGF as something more, it is clear
that the IGF dialogue will indeed evolve and, along the way, will
impact the conceptual approach governments take to the Internet
itself. There is little doubt that some governments will choose to
borrow concepts from the IGF when developing law and policy and will
ultimately apply them to the Internet within their respective
jurisdictions. Given the global nature of the Internet, this should be
a fundamental concern.

While this important dialogue about the Internet continues at the IGF
in Brazil next month, another no less important debate is emerging
with regard to RFID technology and the so-called "Internet of Things."
The Internet of Things is a term coined to describe a future
ubiquitous sensor network that collects commercial and personal data
in public and private settings created, in part, through the rollout
of RFID technology. The Internet of Things, according to some, is
defined by the ability of things or devices to communicate and
interact with each other. An ITU Internet Report from 2005 forecasts
that with the implementation of RFID, "[c]onnections will multiply and
create an entirely new dynamic network of networks—an Internet of
Things." Questions have arisen about what governance principles should
apply to the Internet of Things and analytical reference to IGF
governance concepts will inevitably be made.

Although RFID is not a new technology, supply chain and consumer-based
implementations remain at a relatively nascent stage. Since RFID
implementations are occurring primarily in the business supply chain
and not yet at consumer points-of-sale, one must ask what the
"Internet of Things" actually is today and what, if any, governance
principles should be applied. More importantly, before applying
governance principles, it is necessary to examine the nature of the
various RFID networks that would constitute the Internet of Things.
Depending on their architecture, security and modes of
interconnection, emerging RFID networks between commercial entities
could be considered "private networks" or "closed user groups,"
(Private networks utilizing TCP/IP are addressed in RFC 1918 which
likewise recognizes these distinctions between private and public
networks). Private networks and closed user groups are generally
exempt from traditional telecommunications regulations since they do
not interconnect with the "public telecommunications network" or other
open, public networks like the Internet. In some contexts, the
question of whether a private network is subject to a regulatory
obligation actually turns on the manner in which the private network
interconnects with the public network. Given these important
distinctions, it would be premature to apply less than fully conceived
IGF governance concepts to one constituent network aspect of a yet to
be realized Internet of Things.

It is important that all stakeholders exercise great care in
addressing questions of governance, policy and regulation as the
Internet evolves. Common agreement on terminology and concepts is
necessary and a sound understanding of the Internet itself by all
stakeholders cannot be assumed. For example, a great deal of focus in
the IGF remains on "critical Internet resources" which, to date, has
meant domain names, root servers and IP address administration. The
Internet is obviously much more than these three important elements
and a holistic view of the Internet within the IGF is necessary before
governance questions can be properly framed. If the IGF dialogue is to
provide analytical building blocks for application of governance
principles to new technologies and evolving networks, there is a
premium on the IGF dialogue getting the conceptual framework right. If
the IGF becomes nothing more than a Chinese menu for governments to
select a preferred "governance point-of-view" to apply to the Internet
of today or tomorrow, then the IGF, like the WSIS before it, will
become another opportunity missed.

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More Under: infrastructure, internet governance, policy regulation

Source Credit: This has been a featured post from Brian Cute,
President, Eastham Global Strategies, L.L.C.. To learn more, visit
this participant's full profile page.

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