I originally supported Internet because of the fact its architecture gives an excellent platform for innovation, competition, consumer choice and numerous more buzzwords related to efficient market economy. Together with of course the need for regulation to be modern, technology neutral, that control these market forces so that they work in an as effective way as possible.
Then I now about ten years ago came in contact with people fighting in favor of human rights, and specifically freedom of expression. And I saw that the goal both groups had was the same. But they implemented it differently and used different arguments. What I am a bit disappointed in, and the reason why I write this, is that I start to become a bit frustrated that the two camps do not work more together.
Both human rights and network neutrality people do believe in the features in the society that the Internet architecture lead to. That the communication architecture is layered, instead of consisting of vertically locked in silos where each application has one transmission. Where the ability to choose what service to use is limited. Internet is the contrary. A simple explanation is that Internet is a three layered architecture. First we have some carrier in the form of fiber, radio etc. One portion of this, specifically the passive infrastructure, is expensive to invest in, but can also be used for many many years. 20? 30? For the society, sharing this passive infrastructure is a good thing. Then on top of this we have the Internet layer. The main component of the Internet layer is the Internet Protocol, or IP in short, which we have been using version 4 for some time, and now also work on getting version 6 deployed. The top layer is the application or service layer. This is where Facebook, Twitter, Email and all other applications are.
Why is this three layer architecture so successful? Well, there are specifically two reasons I think. First, the Internet layer is with its addressing a global protocol. Anyone having a public IP address can send messages to anyone else in the world. Secondly, if an application is made for the IP protocol, it will work regardless of what transmission or carrier is used for the IP protocol.
This implies someone in Kamerun that want to provide a service have the same ability to do so as the person in Sweden. This implies someone that writes what they think on a blog post can have readers all over the world. But only if we have network neutrality and freedom of expression as primary goals for the Internet.
Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, said in its report that Internet is not a right by itself. But it is a necessity for the ability to exercise many of the rights we have. My conclusion is because of this that we do not have to reopen the human rights. There might be need to interpret them in an Internet context though. To understand more precisely who is responsible for what.
Frank continued by saying that the base rule should be that Internet is open. That any impact on the open Internet do have impact on the ability to communicate and because of this freedom of expression, ability to participate in the society (innovation etc).
That Internet as a base rule should and must be open is something I also advocate in a Network Neutrality context. I want that fixed in regulation. So that everything else is forced to be expressed in the form of exceptions to the base rule.
What I want network neutrality and human rights people to work on, together, are things like how to classify an open Internet and how to evaluate what exceptions are acceptable. For example, there are at the moment many discussions related to what intermediaries are expected to do, what they are forbidden to do, and to some degree discussions on what of those actions should be founded in laws, regulation and what should be corporate social responsibility issues.
Other discussions are about the forces that fight against each other, for example requirements for parties to act on behalf of law enforcement agencies and integrity interests. And the difference in what States can do and what private interests do.
There are so many issues that are discussed, and should be discussed. But the discussions are a bit unfocused. The discussions at the meetings where issues are discussed move very slowly forward while both regulation and business models evolve very very quickly. I am happy to see so many meetings hosted by various organizations in Sweden this spring, like Stockholm Internet Forum For Global Development and European Dialogue On Internet Governance.
But, people with the same view on the end game must work together. We have enough people not sharing that view that we must argue with that we do not have time for disputes among us that share the same view of the world. Sure, we should iron out the differences in how to implement the various issues, but in many cases I think we can learn from each other.