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Public Interest Considerations on Next Generation Networks ITU Workshop, What Rules for IP-enabled NGNs? 23-24 March 2006 William Drake Director, Project.

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Presentation on theme: "Public Interest Considerations on Next Generation Networks ITU Workshop, What Rules for IP-enabled NGNs? 23-24 March 2006 William Drake Director, Project."— Presentation transcript:

1 Public Interest Considerations on Next Generation Networks ITU Workshop, What Rules for IP-enabled NGNs? March 2006 William Drake Director, Project on the Information Revolution and Global Governance Graduate Institute for International Studies Geneva, Switzerland President, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

2 On the “Public Interest” 30 years ago, fair degree of consensus on its meaning Today far less consensus, & some view the term as quaintly archaic Views vary widely among and within various groupings, e.g. ideological, professional, scholarly disciplines Variable geometry of political alignments per issue NGO perspective offered here Irrespective of one’s views on them, public interest concerns will be raised and could become politically salient as NGN roll-out and policy making accelerate Better to address now than to settle for post hoc reactions; dialogue & constructive engagement needed

3 The Current Political Context Concerns about regulatory/legislative capture and industry concentration are common Citizens groups, aka civil society organizations increasingly attentive and mobilized in many countries Merging of computing and communications environments, Internet, personalization of technology, etc. have empowered users, altered their expectations, increased their sense of being stakeholders whose freedoms are impacted by government and industry decisions => digital rights Aspects of NGN development will be seen through these prisms

4 Some Potential Hot Spots Market power, vertical integration, competition Universal service & universal access Interconnection, settlements Charging New digital divides Interoperability & open standards, proprietary platforms & walled gardens (where real choice is absent) Net neutrality & QoS Freedom of speech & access to diverse information Privacy protection vs. public/private sector surveillance Intellectual property restrictions Consumer protection

5 Networked Globalization Many of the above issues have transnational dimensions In which cases do asymmetric national policies matter? Some issues may require new international frameworks –Bilateral, plurilateral, regional, multilateral – Intergovernmental, private sector, multistakeholder In parallel, some specifically international issues, e.g. cross-border trade –Content without frontiers, cultural and linguistic diversity concerns –domestic regulation of content services (educational, medical, gambling, etc.) Jurisdiction & choice of law

6 Open Questions: Relationship to the Public Internet Some lack of clarity in discussions to date Conflict, coexistence, or convergence? Is the Internet really broken? For whom? Are we at an inflection point? If it is broken, are NGNs as currently envisioned the optimal fix? Any potential risks to the medicine? Will preserving the widely valued aspects of today’s Internet require more regulation, or less?

7 A Tale of Two Networlds: Disconnects… Beyond the IETF, many stakeholders in the Internet environment seem unaware of NGN developments Ex: While NGN potentially of direct relevance, little mention in the global Internet governance debate, e.g. in WSIS, WGIG, ICANN nexus, other relevant forums Ex: 8 March 2005 OECD Workshop on The Future of the Internet; ITU presentation the only mention

8 …and Misconnects Among the Internet mavens who are aware of NGN, widespread uneasiness & even distrust Viewed through the prisms of old “nethead” vs. “bellhead” divide as an ITU-based telco “power grab” Press coverage and Internet “buzz” a factor Some of this may be more instinctive than thought through, mid-1990s mindsets locked in place Nevertheless, many unanswered questions, ambiguities; information & perceptions tend to fill vacuums And in some cases, these may indeed be legitimate ground for public interest concerns

9 A Cautionary Tale? 33 years ago, ITU participants began to develop the concept of Integrated Services Digital Networks (ISDN) Within ITU and PTT/telco circles, viewed positively as comprehensive, forward-leading platform for voice/data Outside those circles, ISDN often was viewed as a response by threatened monopolies to the growth of private leased circuits, networks; => derided as “Innovations that Subscribers Don’t Want” Issue became contentious; controversy and subsequent market liberalization + technological change significantly decoupled implementation from the initial vision

10 Hence, a Need for Transparency & Inclusive Dialogue ITU & other relevant bodies should provide free & open access to information on NGN work, e.g. standards, contributions & reports Initiate dialogue with concerned stakeholders in the Internet environment, including diverse business constituencies & civil society organizations Interested parties should anticipate and address up front potential concerns Absent this, probability of increasing divergence that could become salient for market plans and policy discussions later on, per ISDN yesterday, or the “net neutrality” debate today

11 Conclusion “First, do no harm” to the Internet people have come to know and value, e.g. the “right to tinker” at the edges Supplier solutions to suppliers’ problems will not be inspiring to users if perceived as being at expense of their current capabilities Think of empowered citizens, not just consumers Transparency & inclusive dialogue on the full range of policy issues in everyone’s interest


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