IGF 2018 WS #275 Before you know it, Internet governance will be irrelevant

Salle III

Organizer 2: Farzaneh Badii, Internet Governance Project

Speaker 1: Wafa Ben-Hassine, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 2: Christian Kaufmann, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Geoff Huston, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Additional Speakers

Christian Kaufmann, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
 Geoff Huston, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG) (remote)



Farzaneh Badii

Online Moderator

A representative from APNIC


Farzaneh Badii


Round Table - 90 Min


The moderator starts with setting the agenda and laying out the issue. The technical and business community (Geoff Huston from APNIC and Christian Kaufmann from Akamai) will discuss how the consolidation of traffic is happening and why it can be problematic for Internet governance. The representative from IETF (Alissa Cooper) will provide her viewpoints about this issue and the problems it can raise for standard setting. Civil Society representatives discuss why centralization can affect our Internet rights and which rights are affected. Other stakeholders representatives that align with the opinion that consolidation of Internet traffic is problematic for Internet governance or have a different opinion will be encouraged to attend the session.


We have madae sure that there is diversity among the speakers and the participants in terms of gender, stakeholder group, and region as well as diversity of view and opinions. We have confirmed participants from IXPs and IETF (the chair of IETF Alissa Cooper) and we are planning to invite others who can bring different perspectives, not necessarily as presenters but as participants and discussants.

The session will start with laying out the problem statement. It will discuss whether and to what extent the centralization and privatization of Internet traffic by a handful of organizations will harm standards settings, Internet governance, and Internet rights. It will address the following questions: What changes does the consolidation of transit bring in Internet standard setting and Internet governance? How would this change affect our Internet rights? Would we have better privacy protection, freedom of expression and balanced copyrights enforcement? Should we prevent the death of transit from happening? In case we want to prevent it from happening, what policy steps should we take?

This will be an unconventional roundtable, it is not necessarily a fishbowl nor a shark tank, but while the speakers take turns to speak, at any time the online participants or the participants in the room can make comments related to that segment (the moderator keeps the time to give equal time for each segment) We will provide statements in the end for the online participants, participants and discussants to agree with or disagree with and based on the answers we will shape the outcome report of the session and take our next policy steps.

The decentralized and distributed nature of the Internet made it possible to reach a historical global interconnectedness. There is a danger however that the distributed nature disappears or weakens. In the last years more and more traffic moved to Cloud Providers and from there get delivered to Internet end users via various Content Distribution Networks. (Refer to Huston blog on this issue, referenced below) If this trend continues then more and more traffic flow will bypass the public Internet (transit and Internet Exchange Points). If just a handful of global companies exchange the majority of the traffic in the world then technical standards bodies such as the IETF might become irrelevant and policies from the Internet governance processes might become ineffective. Only few actors will have incentives and the power to get involved with the standard setting at the Internet architecture level. All in all we will see fewer actors that can get engaged with Internet governance and the bottom up, global Internet governance might slowly be replaced by few corporations standards and rules. Policy questions: 1. What policy issues does the death of transit create? 2. What policy recommendations can overcome this issue?

Online Participation

The moderator will come up with a strategy for better inclusion of online participants in collaboration with the online moderator. The strategy (briefly) includes: 1. Publicize the session and the remote participation details across all the stakeholders and networks (the technical community, civil society, others) so that online participants know about the opportunity to get engaged online 2. As well as WebEX, we identify other platforms that should be monitored for remote participants to comment and get involved with the session. (for example Twitter and we will publicize a hashtag for our session) 3. Reach out to established remote hubs to see if they are interested in attending the session and if they would like to submit questions before the session 4. We will include the online participants in all the activities that will happen during the session and the moderator will prepare them in advance of the session 5. The moderator will also monitor the remote participation room

Session Time
Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions


IGF 2018 /Report

Session Title

Before You Know It, Internet Governance Will be Irrelevant 


Tuesday 13 November 2018


16.40– 18.10

Session Organizer

Farzaneh Badii 


Farzaneh Badii


Ilona Stadnik 

List of Speakers and their institutional affiliations


Christian Kaufmann, RIPE NCC/AKAMAI 

Ted Hardie, IETF 

Geoff Huston and Pablo Hinojosa, APNIC

Michael Kende, Visiting Professor, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies


Key Issues raised (1 sentence per issue):

Traffic consolidation is being observed on the Internet. Would this have Internet governance and policy implications? 

Important to be clear about the kind of traffic and the nuances and differences between various causes of traffic consolidation

Consolidation might be because of the evolution of the Internet, but it is important to follow its progress 

Holding actors and operators accountable to Internet norms might be the answer to preserve the distributed and public nature of the Internet 



Please describe the Discussions that took place during the workshop session: (3 paragraphs)

There is a trend emerging that might affect Internet governance: there are fewer and fewer players on the Internet that deal with Internet traffic and content. The trend does not mean that the whole Internet ecosystem is not growing but as Christian Kaufmann puts it: 

" in the last one or two years, the whole traffic which is flowing via transit and even via the Internet exchanges is not growing to the same degree as the rest of the ecosystem.  So the Internet still grows. You have broadband penetration, you have more content, but the players or delivery method as in transit or Internet exchanges is not growing to the same degree."


What are the Internet governance implications of traffic being transited through only a few players? 


To answer that question we first tried to define Internet governance: What we mean by Internet Governance are the policies, the best practices, and the standards that shape cyberspace. But also the operational implications, the tasks that the might be affected in the management of the Internet. Would this trend affect the tasks of keeping the Internet open, interconnected and interoperable? 


Geoff Huston explained that the role of the Internet as a public carriage system is shrinking in the face of the significant expansion of the privately operated Content Data Networks (CDNs). If the definition of internet Governance embraces some form of oversight of this public communications system, then its effectiveness is also shrinking. We have been accustomed to using the network as the means of monitoring and even controlling users' interactions with content and services, and thereby apply public policies to online services and content. If this form of regulatory leverage is being removed through the privatization of large amounts of the carriage volume of Internet traffic into privately operated CDNs, then this governance model is quickly becoming ineffective and irrelevant. If this entire Internet Governance conversation is indeed about the governance issues relating to the provision of online goods and services then using the public carriage system as a proxy for this governance conversation is a pointless distraction. We need to focus more directly on the far harder issues of defining a tenable and sustainable relationship with these private sector operators and clearly understand exactly why such a public sector governance function is in the interests of both the consumers of such services and these private sector providers.


Some other participants in the workshop did not see it that way. They believe that there might be a trend in Internet traffic consolidation but the issue should be looked at in a more nuanced way. Content delivery networks are different from social media providers. As Mike Nelson of Cloudflare explained " It is useful to differentiate between the social media companies, the top of the stack, the security companies that are providing certs and the domain name companies and at the very bottom companies like ours, content distribution network and below that even the networks themselves.

     There is a valid concern regarding cloud providers. Nelson from Cloudflare puts it as: "So we are very worried that one or two cloud companies will control the cloud.  Our answer is to make sure that everybody can connect to any cloud they want Some of us are fighting very hard to constrain ugly monopolist and to have a multi-cloud environment and connect everybody to everybody and not be a gatekeeper no matter how many governments want us to be."


Ted Hardie from the IETF saw the changing traffic patterns and reduction in transit as a natural evolution [connected to latency reduction] that might not really affect Internet governance or standards making but which is nonetheless a topic to pay attention to. He made the point that"[to keep the Internet] interoperable and globally interconnected.[we can focus] on making sure that that is a core value of people who participate in the routing system.  The ISOC Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security might be a vehicle for that.  There are methods for doing that by reaching out to the operator communities." But Christian Kaufmann argued that adopting MANRs might face collective action problems. Moreover, joining the private networks that do not even connect to the public Internet might bypass standardization processes. Ted Hardie argued that private networks still require interoperability for Internet traffic and that maintaining different systems for local and global traffic may not be common in the long run.


As Michael Kende and others said during the session, there is a difference between consolidation that is a result of economies of scale and consolidation that is a result of the network effect. When we are discussing the issue of traffic consolidation, we need to consider this differentiation into account.


Please describe any Participant suggestions regarding the way forward/ potential next steps /key takeaways: (3 paragraphs)


This issue was identified by the participants as a trend that was worth monitoring, but there was not much support for the premise that Internet governance will be irrelevant. Holding Internet operators accountable to Internet values and in specific, the value of interoperability was flagged as a solution that might deserve attention.

Our message: The evolution of Internet operators and service providers might affect Internet governance and its principles. Mechanisms should be in place to monitor such trends and preserve the public, distributed nature of the Internet.