Strengthening the Internet 8 November 2021

Enablers of an Open, Globally Connected, Secure and Trustworthy Internet


The Internet’s potential is unlimited. As a worldwide resource, the Internet supports commerce, recreation, research, education, entertainment, and everything in between. But with different stakeholders and competing demands of the network, safeguarding the future of the Internet can seem like an impossible task.

It doesn’t need to be hard. The Internet was created with a unique foundation[1] that empowers users across borders to collectively shape its evolution. Time and time again, different groups and organizations [2] worldwide with different viewpoints find common ground on a shared set of goals for the Internet. That is, a network that is open, globally connected, secure and trustworthy.

The Internet Society’s mission is also based on these goals. Unfortunately, the Internet today is far from this aspirational state of being open, globally connected, secure and trustworthy. Furthermore, a variety of business developments and governmental regulatory interventions (or lack thereof) threaten to move us further away instead of closer to them. That is why protecting the Internet’s evolution towards these goals is urgent and important. 

These goals guide our collective journey to a better Internet. They tell us how we want the Internet to be, now, and in the future. By viewing proposed changes in policies, technologies, and applications in relation to these goals, we can better understand whether we are on track for a thriving Internet or straying from our targets.

Aspirational Goals for a Thriving Internet

An Open Internet

The open Internet allows people and organizations to mix and match technologies without permission and with minimal barriers.

Sustaining and growing an open Internet helps to spur innovation and keep it fit for future applications.

An open Internet is an accessible Internet – it is easy to connect to the open Internet and use its services.

A Globally Connected Internet

The globally connected Internet is inclusive. It allows networks and users to interconnect without geographical restrictions.

Increasing the connectivity of the Internet makes it more valuable to every participant, as a tool for communications, learning, commerce.

A Secure Internet

A secure Internet is resistant to attacks on its infrastructure, delivering a robust service to its user community.

A secure Internet does not create insecurity, such as botnets that are used in phishing scams.

Improving security of the Internet increases its usefulness to all participants.

A Trustworthy Internet

A trustworthy Internet meets the expectations of its users by offering a resilient and reliable base for applications and services.

Improving a trustworthy Internet makes it possible for individuals and organizations to rely on the Internet as a continuing worldwide communications resource.

Enablers of an Open, Globally Connected, Secure, and Trustworthy Internet

For each of the Internet goals, we have identified a series of supporting characteristics that advance the Internet, its infrastructure, and its use towards these universal goals. We call these supporting characteristics “enablers”: they advance and enable the targeted goal.

The purpose of identifying enablers is to simplify the task of analyzing the potential effects of proposed changes, and in consequence how it may affect the goals. For example, a secure Internet requires that the Internet support both data confidentiality and data integrity. Each of these is an enabler: data confidentiality supports the goal of a secure Internet, as does data integrity. If either is missing, the security of the Internet is reduced. Since the enablers, not the goals, are the tool for analysis of proposals, they are the focus of this framework.

Below, we identify enablers[3] that relate to each of the four Internet goals. To help make the meaning of each enabler and how it relates to the attainability of an Internet goal as clear as possible, we have provided examples of different policies or technologies specific to an enabler that either advance or block the goal in the area identified (the examples are available in the PDF version only).

It is important to note the enablers are presented in their ideal form. By thinking of them as if they reflect a perfect state, we have a reference point that helps us determine whether a particular development moves the Internet away or towards the identified goals. The enablers can also expose some of the tensions that exist between the goals and make the potential trade-offs clearer. For example, some of the actions may have a positive effect on the security of the Internet, while making it less open at the same time.

Supporting an Open Internet

The Internet is fully open when anyone may create, use, or deploy it according to their own wishes.With a fully open Internet, anyone is is free to deploy Internet networks and build services and applications on the Internet, combine them in novel ways and deploy them without barriers, as long as this is done in interoperable ways. An open Internet is an accessible Internet – it is easy for networks to join, and for users to connect to it and use its services.

The tables below define some enablers of an open Internet. We have also provided some examples of different policies or technologies that either advance or block the goal in the area identified. Note that these examples should be read as illustrations for their effect on the enabler with which they are listed. Some of our examples may have positive effects for one enabler and negative effects for others [4] (the examples are available in the PDF version only).

Enabler: Easy and unrestricted access

It is easy to become part of the Internet, for networks and users alike. That means that for users the Internet is affordable and Internet services are accessible, and that networks can easily become part of the Internet, without unnecessary regulatory or commercial barriers for both groups.


  • Does the proposed change create or lower a barrier to entry, such as costs, administrative overhead, or other difficulties?
  • Is the effect of the change to restrict who can participate, closing down the Internet?
  • Does the proposed change create unnecessary requirements for particular skills, or raise costs?
Enabler: Unrestricted use and deployment of Internet technologies

The Internet’s technologies and standards are available for adoption without restriction. This enabler extends to end-points: the technologies used to connect to and use the Internet do not require permission from a third party, operating system (OS) vendor, a network provider, or any other third party.

The Internet’s infrastructure is available as a resource to anyone who wishes to use it. Existing technologies can be mixed in and used to create new products and services that extend the Internet’s capabilities.


  • Does the proposed change restrict how the Internet’s technologies can be used or deployed?
  • Is the effect of the change to create an unfair or discriminatory limit?
  • Does the proposed change unreasonably limit how end users can manage and control their own devices?
Enabler: Collaborative development, management, and governance

The Internet’s technologies and standards are developed, managed, and governed in an open and collaborative way. This open collaboration extends to the building and operation of the Internet and services built on top of the Internet.

The development and maintenance process is based on transparency and consensus, and has as its goal the optimization of infrastructure and services to the benefit of the users of these technologies.


  • Does the proposed change limit collaboration during development, operation, and governance? Is the goal of the proposed policy a restraint on collaboration?

Supporting a Globally Connected Internet

With a truly interconnected Internet, anyone who wants to be part of the Internet can participate and exchange traffic with other participants without restrictions. A globally connected Internet is not just a technical capability, but one in which all barriers to connection are minimized and everyone who wants to use it can get a fast, reliable, and affordable connection to end-points (users, services or resources like storage, computing, sensing, and actuating) no matter where they are located.

Enabler: Unrestricted reachability

Internet users have access to all resources and technologies made available on the Internet and are able to make resources available themselves.

Once a resource has been made available in some way by its owner, there is no blocking of legitimate use and access to that resource by third parties.


  • Does the proposed change restrict which resources a user can use and access, or restrict the resource the user may contribute to the Internet?
  • Is the effect of the change that a third party can block access to significant parts of the resources of the Internet, or creates single points of failure?
Enabler: Available capacity

The capacity of the Internet is sufficient to meet user demand. No one expects the capacity of the Internet to be infinite, but there is enough connection capacity – ports, bandwidth, services – to meet the demands of the users.


  • Does the proposed change act to increase the availability of Internet resources, such as bandwidth or other capacity?
  • Is the effect of the policy to limit growth and capacity, either directly or indirectly?

Supporting a Secure Internet

A secure Internet is resistant to attacks on its infrastructure, delivering a robust service to its user community. This means that its protocols and infrastructure, such as routing and DNS, should present a secure base that is resistant to both intentional attacks and accidents. In a secure Internet, data should have its confidentiality, integrity, and availability protected. Ideally, a secure Internet also does not create insecurity, such as botnets that are used in phishing scams. And the services and applications that run over the Internet itself should be secure, to the greatest extent providing defense in depth. 

In this context, “secure” complements and relates to “trustworthy.” When evaluating different proposed policies through the lens of the enablers both will often be taken into account.

Enabler: Data confidentiality of information, devices, and applications

Data confidentiality, usually accomplished with tools such as encryption, allows end users to send sensitive information across the Internet so that eavesdroppers and attackers cannot see the content or know who is communicating.

Allowing the transfer of sensitive information helps create a secure Internet.

Data confidentiality also extends to data-at-rest in applications and on devices. (N.B., “confidentiality” also contributes to privacy, which is part of a trustworthy Internet)


  • Does the proposed change strengthen or weaken the ability of users to preserve the confidentiality of their information in transit or at rest?
  • If this change is implemented, will the underlying protocols of the Internet provide stronger or weaker confidentiality?
Enabler: Integrity of information, applications, and services

The integrity of data sent over the Internet, and stored in applications, is not compromised. That is, information sent over the Internet shouldn’t be modified in transit, unless directed by the communicating parties (e.g., a captioning bot may be useful to turn spoken words into text).

Critical underlying Internet services, such as DNS and the routing system, cannot be manipulated or compromised by malicious actors.

Data stored in applications cannot be manipulated or compromised by third parties.


  • Does the proposed change strengthen or weaken the integrity of data, or the ability of users to verify that data are not corrupted?
  • Does the proposed change strengthen or weaken the accuracy and integrity of Internet services, such as DNS?

Supporting a Trustworthy Internet

Unlike security, trustworthiness depends not only on the state of the Internet, but also on the state of people and organizations that use and participate in it. The extent to which the Internet may be considered trustworthy depends upon an informed base of users who have the tools to evaluate trustworthiness, based on their current knowledge of the Internet’s vulnerabilities and threats to it. [5]

The concepts of trustworthy Internet and a secure Internet are tightly intertwined: if the Internet is not secure, it cannot possibly be trustworthy. However, a completely secure Internet could still be untrustworthy if it violated user expectations or if some of its participants were not worthy of trust. Trustworthiness is not simply a matter of security.

Enabler: Reliability, resilience, and availability

The Internet is reliable when technology and processes are in place that permit the delivery of services as promised. If, for example, an Internet service’s availability is unpredictable, then users will observe this as unreliable.

This can reduce trust not just in one single service, but in the Internet itself.

Resilience is related to reliability: a resilient Internet maintains an acceptable level of service even in the face of errors, malicious behavior, and other challenges to its normal operations.


  • Does the proposed change create unpredictable variations in the Internet’s reliability or in the reliability of a service or set of services?
  • Will users be unable to know, from day to day, whether they can use the Internet and its services?
  • Does the proposed change increase or reduce the overall level of the Internet’s resilience to malfunction?
Enabler: Accountability

Accountability on the Internet gives users the assurance that organizations and institutions they interact with are directly or indirectly acting in a transparent and fair way.

In an accountable Internet, entities, services, and information can be identified and the organizations involved will be held responsible for their actions.


  • Does the proposed change create non-transparent authorities or hidden actors?
  • Is the effect of the change to create unaccountable or anonymous authorities who will affect the trust users have in the Internet?
Enabler: Privacy

Privacy on the Internet is the ability of individuals and groups to be able to understand and control what information about them is being collected and how, and to control how this is used and shared.

Privacy often includes aspects of anonymity, removing linkages between data, devices, and communications sessions and the identities of the people to which they pertain.


  • Does the proposed change improve, reduce or eliminate users’ ability to understand or control how their information is collected, or to control how this information is used and shared?
  • Is the effect to provide or eliminate the possibility for a user to act anonymously or pseudonymously?

Related resources:


[1] Internet Way of Networking: Defining the Critical Properties of the Internet

[2] See, for example OECD goals for Internet Policy Making (, the United States Department of State statement on Internet Governance (, the African Union ( ), European Union in their Cybersecurity strategy (, the Council of Foreign Relations (, CITEL (, the Global Commission on Internet Governance (

[3] This list of enablers is not meant to be a complete enumeration of everything that contributes to a goal. These are listed to help your analysis of changes that may affect the target positively or negatively. If you find some aspect of a change that strongly affects a target but doesn’t neatly fit into the list of enablers, you may have found a new enabler – use it in your analysis and send it back to us for inclusion in the next version of this document. Some of the enablers may relate to more than one Internet goal. For example, “easy and unrestricted access” could arguably also advance the goal of globally connectivity. The framework is a simplification of this reality: since the enablers and not the goals are the primary analytical tools for the impact assessment, an enabler is attributed to one goal only to help contextualize its role.

[4] For illustrations of more comprehensive assessments of impacts across multiple enablers we recommend you visit our repository of Internet Impact Briefs, available here:

[5] Readers may find the terms “trusted” and “trustworthy” confusing. In our reading of the terms, the trustworthiness of the Internet can be assessed in a neutral way based on technical and policy elements that are generally objective. However, the user may not reward a trustworthy network with their confidence. An Internet that is trustworthy may still not be trusted. And an Internet that is not trustworthy may still be trusted.

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