Internet Governance Forum Reflections

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The four-day IGF conference was, for those interested or involved with the governance of the Internet (and that is a big qualifier), a packed agenda on an incredibly wide array of subjects.  There was so much on the official agenda, it was impossible to participate in it all.  There were 10 separate steams of working groups or sessions, so until cloning happens, one had to pick and choose what would provide the most benefit for any given organization or person.

The conference dealt with topics as diverse as IPV4 depletion, ICANN’s new Affirmation of Commitments, cybercrime, privacy vs. securit, net neutrality, human rights regarding the Internet, developing country needs, WSIS, IPV6 adoption, censorship, the future of the IGF itself, and many, many more – from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The thing to remember about the IGF is it is a multi-stakeholder environment, which means that from a speaking perspective everyone is equal.  In other words, everyone from governments to organizations to individuals can all get the same amount of airtime.  This is a very unique environment.  As one can imagine, some participants – read certain governments – are none too keen on being “equal” to individuals.

I can’t begin to cover it all in one blog post, but some interesting moments include…

Rod Beckstrom, CEO of ICANN, in the main session (picture a room with 1000+ people) getting into a full- scale verbal battle with a courtier of the International Telecommunication Union.  I first mentioned this dynamic in my inaugural blog post.  It got so heated that the moderator literally had to pull them apart.  This is not something one sees everyday at a UN-based conference.  It certainly spoke to the undertone of the entire conference.

There was significant attention paid to the depletion of IPV4 addresses and the adoption, or lack thereof, of IPV6.  Considerable debate about how to foster adoption of IPV6 as IPV4 addresses will run out in about two years.  Milton Mueller, constant Internet governance contrarian, and ARIN’s John Curran squared off about address scarcity and what to do about it.  Mueller hypothesizes that IP addresses should be “sold” in a market environment, unlike today where they are handed out in blocks to those who require them.  This is fairly heretical and it was based on lots of economic theory.

An interesting metaphor – IPV4 address space is to IPV6 as a golf ball is to the sun.  Although this gives a perspective on how much IPV6 space is available, the argument was still being made that in order to allocate it efficiently a “market” should do it.

Net Neutrality continues to be a big issue on the global stage.  The discussion is getting much more intelligent and sophisticated (on all sides) about this issue.  Too bad we could not have brought some CRTC commissioners to this.  Pretty much all sides of the debate agree that some network intelligence is required, but the issue is getting considerably more refined about discrimination of applications and pricing strategies, which is where most of the differences in opinion lie.

Some facts to consider in this discussion:

- Internet traffic has increased six-fold in five years.
- Significant shift away from P2P traffic (which was catalytic in this debate) and into streaming technologies.  This is what is really driving demand for bandwidth.
- The average connected household is watching 1.1 hours a day of Internet delivered video – right now!
- By 2013, video will be responsible for over 60% of mobile traffic.
- One percent of users consume 20% of bandwidth; the top 20% consume 60%.
- Not all “bytes” are the same (email vs. streaming video), so should they be treated exactly the same?

I think the issue is inching towards a more productive place. What are your thoughts?

Disponible en français sur demande.

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