Internet Governance 3 December 2011

Remarks for “Future Internet” Panel

ITU Telecom World 2009, 8 October 2009

Panel description: Fundamental changes are happening to the internet. Unwanted traffic, choking of the routing system, mobility, congestion, privacy, trust and reputation issues are all restricting progress. The very structure of the internet has to change to meet these challenges. The future internet will shift from the end-to-end principle towards a trust-to-trust principle. It will change from interconnecting nodes towards interconnecting information. It will involve new mechanisms to improve the quality of end-to-end connectivity and new ways of information storage and delivery.

Dr da Silva, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to be on this panel today, discussing an issue as critically important as the future of the Internet.

However, I can’t agree at all with the assumptions underlying the panel description. Rather than rebutting them one by one, I want to reframe our thinking with a reminder that it is precisely the “very structure of the Internet”, combined with its associated development and management models, that has led to an unprecedented explosion of creativity, innovation, and opportunity for everyone. Today’s Internet and its unique model of development and management are the keys to the Internet’s future.

There are growing pains in any organic system, and the Internet is no different. The pains we are feeling now exist because more people are using the Internet; using it increasingly in all aspects of their lives; and forever more remarkable things. So, if there are calls for better trust mechanisms and stronger privacy protection, it is precisely because people, businesses, and governments see the value in greater and more personal levels of online interaction.

Frankly, it’s disheartening to hear calls for actions that would restrict openness and limit people’s ability to communicate and use services in the ways that suit their needs.

Do we really want to return to an environment that is largely determined unilaterally by others or that is restricted, with large portions walled off? But that is what some are calling for – often under the guise of better protecting or serving end-users, or to create a so-called “safe, controlled environment”.

If we believe in the future of the Internet (and I hope we all do), then we can see many of its current growing pains not as problems, but opportunities for growth and innovation. The wonderful thing about the Internet is that it is so open to anyone with the creativity and drive to grasp those opportunities.

The Internet is what it is today – and it will continue to astonish and enrich us in the future – because its growth is guided by a few simple principles. Specifically:

  • At its heart are open, freely accessible, and globally interoperable technical standards
  • It has inclusive transparent processes for technology and policy development, and
  • Responsibility for its technical, management, and administrative functions are globally distributed

We call this the “Internet Model” of development. It catalyses the phenomenal innovation in services and products. It contributes to economic growth across all sectors. And it supports cultural and linguistic diversity. Its benefits are not accidental. To preserve them, we must all commit to protect this model.

The Internet model is fundamentally based on openness. Users develop and choose the services they need, create their own content in the language they want, and share it with others. It empowers citizens and enhances social and economic development.

The Internet is open to business as an extraordinary platform for entrepreneurship – opening up new territories, expanding marketplaces, and creating new business models. It puts the power of innovation in the hands of all businesses, large and small.

The Internet today is not perfect. But it is a vibrant, dynamic platform that undergoes constant development and evolution. Innovative responses to security, privacy, and traffic concerns are continually applied to the underlying technologies that make up the Internet. This collaborative approach ensures continuous improvement while preserving the ongoing interoperability of existing applications and services that are more dynamic and responsive than centrally imposed, top-down solutions.

In other words, genuine current concerns are being addressed through focused efforts without jeopardising the progress that is all around us – often in the form of astonishing, paradigm-shifting developments that take us all by surprise.

Part of the genius of the Internet, is that its technical architecture specifically does not try to predict or restrict the future. Solutions to today’s challenges must not lock us into a rigid future; yet that seems to be precisely the intention of many prescriptions for Next Generation internetworking.

The open Internet Model and the Internet Ecosystem depend on diversity, adapt quickly to change, and encourage creativity and innovation. While today’s must-have feature will eventually become tomorrow’s legacy product, the Internet remains the endlessly-adaptable platform for new and unimagined products and services.

Thanks to the open Internet Model of development, the future of the Internet is emerging all around us.

The key questions facing us all: Will the world embrace or resist the open Internet? Will we regress to a model of centralized control? Or will we commit to an open development model that empowers people to create bright new futures? I know which one I prefer.

Thank you.

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