In today’s rapidly-expanding online world, we rely on a free, public, and open internet for practically everything. The internet is not globally regulated and managed today. However, some countries have added more controls over time, restricting or modifying the ways its citizens can access it, and the content they can see.
Instead, the internet is regulated and governed by the coordinated efforts of thousands of companies and organizations around the world. The technical policies agreed upon and put into place by these internet governance bodies have wide-ranging impacts. This is why internet governance was the forefront of discussions during the recent NANOG 89 conference, held in San Diego at the Commodore Ballroom. NetActuate’s Director of Global Networking, Kate Gerry, was in attendance.
ARIN President and CEO John Curran gave the keynote, shedding light on the critical importance of internet governance for network operators. His talk was titled “The Expanding Landscape of Internet Governance: Why Network Operators Need a Global View” and delivered an urgent plea for taking action to ensure a free and open global internet.
A Call for Voluntary Internet Governance
John Curran’s presentation addressed a pressing concern: the need for network operators to proactively establish voluntary policies and regulations for organizations operating on the internet. Curran noted that when network operators fail to self-regulate, governments worldwide may resort to enforcing their own regulations. However, these governments often act too quickly and without the required technical understanding of the impact of their decisions.
When governments attempt to regulate the internet, it can lead to restrictions on access to certain content, high costs, overly restrictive security measures, and more. It’s getting easier every day for internet governance to end up dictated by the interests of lobbyists, rather than serving the broader public interests. As a global network operator, we at NetActuate already face challenges in our day-to-day work because of hastily-made regulations that impact our ability to reach end users in certain markets.
Championing Community Projects
To combat this trend, Curran emphasized the importance of supporting community projects that are working to safeguard the integrity of the internet. One of these critical initiatives is MANRS (Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security). MANRS promotes a public, protected internet by setting specific requirements for its participants, such as the use of Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI), Best Current Practice 38 (BCP38), and other internet security projects.
For NetActuate, we view participating in and championing these initiatives as not just a choice but a core responsibility. These projects not only enhance the security and stability of the internet but also ensure we can continue to build and operate a safe and reliable network for our customers.
The Threat of Overregulation
We believe firmly in a free, open, publicly-governed internet. If we as network operators do not take the lead in defining governance and regulations, governments may step in to do so. This could result in an overly regulated internet, reminiscent of how certain countries, like China, significantly restrict internet access.
Such overregulation would undoubtedly impact our customers and their global end users, creating additional friction when deploying services and content on the internet. For every country that imposes its own set of regulations, it would require providers to take additional (and often unnecessarily restrictive) steps to be compliant. It also requires legal expertise to detangle new complexities of operating in that country to reach those living there.
Other Related Challenges
In his talk, Curran refrained from calling out specific governments or international organizations like the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). However, for this blog it is worth noting that discussions at the ITU have focused on government-provided cryptographic tokens. These cryptographic data tokens can be used to disclose end user identities and limit freedoms that users currently have on the internet.
For example, if someone is in a country that adopted the use of these tokens in order to use the internet, and spoke out against the leadership online, these tokens could help the government track them. It’s easy to see how technologies like these could be adopted in ways meant to control and suppress a population.
Pickleball, DEI, and More
While internet governance was a serious topic of discussion, Kate also enjoyed some of the gathering’s more lighthearted and community-centered moments.
Louie Lee hosted NANOG’s first Pickleball event! Lee gathered participants every morning before NANOG officially started, giving everybody a chance to start the day with some social exercise.
As a member of NANOG’s DEI committee, she enjoyed a talk by Joy Canonigo, Director of DEI at Discover Financial, followed by an intentional lunch. Each individual table was given DEI-focused topics to discuss, and they enjoyed learning from each other.
While NANOG Hackathon has become a cornerstone of each conference, this one was canceled. Instead, participants were invited to a forum to discuss how NANOG90 can reboot the event, to help drive participation and increase its success.
Curran’s presentation at NANOG89 was an important reminder of the need for proactive and responsible internet governance. Network operators, including NetActuate, must take the lead in setting and enforcing voluntary policies and supporting community initiatives to maintain an open, secure, and globally accessible internet.
We also can’t wait to attend NANOG90, and see new and familiar faces, learn, and connect with our peers!