Internet Governance Forum - USA
Washington, D.C., October 2, 2009

 

FROM THE OPENING PLENARY

PANEL RESPONSES FROM
Andrew McLaughlin, Phil Bond, Lee McKnight, Randy Gyllenhaal and Marc Rotenberg to Pew Internet director Lee Rainie's presentation

What We Don't Know About the Future of the Internet

Response from ANDREW MCLAUGHLIN, deputy U.S. chief technology officer, executive office of the president

“Let me drill down on one issue,” Andrew McLaughlin, deputy chief technology officer in the U.S. Office of the President, responded. “I am pleased Lee highlighted these architectural issues because they tend to not get a lot of attention. The Internet we have today started out as a research network that is now being treated – properly so – as critical infrastructure. The basic considerations that led to the construction of the TCP and IP protocols were to solve a set of issues that arise from the kind of shared data from universities. There are a lot of components that were not built in that, as Lee outlined, would potentially be quite useful for some of the activities that we would like to take place on the Internet. We are now confronting some fundamental choices about, for example, authentication on the Internet.”

He noted that if you want to secure routing you want to know the places you do want to get packets from and those from which you don’t want to get packets, “where, for example, malware or virus attacks might be.” Yet in places where authoritarian structures control infrastructure complete authentication of identity behind and origins of information becomes problematic.

"One of the great features of the Internet is that is facilitating a profound flourishing of direct citizen-to-citizen speech in places that don’t have much of a tradition of that or have a tradition of centralized control over information," he said. "So you would alter that architecture and build in that authentication at great peril."

He said one of the best results of the IGF and ICANN processes is the ways in which they illuminate discussions about the architecture, protocols and principles of the Internet to a much wider audience.

“It was not exactly the original intention for ICANN,” he noted, “but it has been the effect. The project of inculcating a way of thinking about problems with the Internet architecture is profoundly important,” he said, noting that you have to know the language of the architecture to operate in today’s political and economic environment. “Without that understanding, you can’t talk intelligently about cybersecurity, how to protect privacy, how to facilitate authenticated business and governmental transactions, and so forth – well, you can talk intelligently about it, but you will be missing something.”

He added that the efforts of multistakeholder organizations in shaping an understanding and knowledge of information networks and the people building and scaling them is important. "The role of the IGF and the value of the ICANN process extends beyond the agendas that are typically before them," McLaughlin said. “The reason these issues are conundrums – the security, authentication, privacy, identity issues, is that the Internet is a voluntarily interconnected set of networks. There is no central controlling authority; there is no body, no government that can decree what the technical implementations of the network will be. That fact is part of the fundamental strength of the Internet, part of what made it scale so fast, part of what’s made it so powerful, part of what made it facilitate so much speech and free expression in so many surprising ways in every culture around the world.”

He said in this decentralized environment change must now be accomplished “in terms of nudges, in terms of incentives, in terms of persuasion, rather than by decree.” He added that while the Internet architecture at this point may protect the speech of a “dissident in a repressive society or in our own society,” but there are many Internet transactions now threatened by spoofing, DNS attacks and other threats that would not occur if we had a better authentication system.

"Understanding how to be precise about those balances and how to get them implemented in a voluntarily interconnected set of networks is a central problem that confronts us over the next few years," McLaughlin said. "From the [Obama] administration’s perspective, the goal of an open Internet that supports free expression, that supports the kind of array, vast wave of human creativity and free expression that we see coursing over the nerves and veins of the Internet every day – maintaining that, accelerating that, enabling that is fundamentally important."

He also noted that moving forward in encouraging the principles of open government “will guide the administration’s efforts to make progress on these problems.”

He said the Obama administration is working to make more information accessible to everyone.

“We want to be a more open government and free the data,” he said, “to make the government a platform for citizen innovation, citizen activities, new business models, and so forth that ride over the data the government has and the taxpayers pay for. The federal government sits on staggering amount of data, and it can be incredibly valuable if it’s made public in machine-readable formats and can be remixed and reused and combined with other kinds of data. That’s a fundamental commitment.”
 

Response from PHIL BOND, president of TechAmerica

“It’s fantastic to have a public forum like this to talk about Internet governance and public policies. In terms of the key uncertainties Lee outlined, my summary response is ‘Yes, but…’” responded Phil Bond of the industry umbrella organization TechAmerica.

“That uncertainty is not a bad thing, in fact it can be quite the opposite. That uncertainty is what’s going to fuel innovation, architecture – certainly there is some uncertainty… The founders of the Internet say they are surprised about where it has gone. Innovation has yielded where it has gone, so some uncertainty there can be a good thing.”

Bond noted that for those who make policy and business decisions it is good to have some idea of what lies ahead. “Certainly you need some predictability in the marketplace so you can get investment and innovation,” he said. “But you also need some flexibility so that policy can be open to where the next billion people want to take this phenomenal medium. We don’t know exactly what the full impact of the Internet is going to be, but we do know that the net impact is going to be positive. Some uncertainties, yet, but we can look at those with anxiety or with excitement, and I would urge excitement as we reach out to those next billion people.”

He said there is certainty in the need to address security issues online.

"This will have implications for architecture, for authentication, for policy," Bond said. "But if the medium, as we probably all believe, the world’s greatest medium for innovation and connectivity with other human beings, if it’s going to be the greatest platform for innovation, it must be a platform for participation. If more people feel trust and confidence as they connect it yields more innovation."

Bond made a direct appeal to the business community he serves to urge that its top leaders become more directly involved in the Internet Governance Forum process.

“It is vital as a multistakeholder, global conversation for a global medium – the most important business and social medium,” he said. “What the business community needs to assess is how engaged they are in the conversation. There should be more, it should be deeper, it should be more senior, because this is what makes the economy and the individual companies succeed.”

Bond explained that TechAmerica is the largest advocacy group for technology in the United States, touching a total of some 40 associations across the U.S. and 16,000 companies. "We need to challenge ourselves to be more engaged," he said. "As we do that, it is possible for us in a multistakeholder venue to accept a consensus view of businesses’ role in the conversation.

“It is the business element that is driving the economic element of the Internet and therefore the employment element. That makes it a critical partner for government. Government must adopt policies for positive growth of the medium. There are positive aspects for civil society and that makes us partners there, too.

“It’s natural for us to come together and form partnerships and have the role of business accepted. The challenge for business is more involvement.”
 

Response from LEE MCKNIGHT, chairman and CEO of Wireless Grids Corporation and associate professor at Syracuse University

Lee McKnight spoke to the conference remotely, by audio. He noted that this week’s announcement about the U.S. government’s recent decision about how it relates to ICANN is extremely important. “It’s impressive to see some things moving at Internet speed,” he said. “I want to highlight that while this is a first meeting of the Internet Governance Forum-USA, it is a historic day both for that and because of the announcement from NTIA and ICANN in relation to internationalization of the oversight of ICANN. It is a particularly poignant time for us to be coming together.”

He asked the audience to think back a few decades to the days when the Internet was not yet an infrastructure used for commerce, politics and general social interaction. “There was at least a glimmer in Vint Cerf’s eye about where things and how things might evolve, and the Internet Society was created,” he recalled. “I have witnessed and have been fortunate to have played a small part in many new organizations that have come along over time.”

He noted that the Caribbean Internet Forum – a multistakeholder group – has been meeting since 2002. “You can learn from them how to grow the US Internet Governance Forum, which has been sort of a late-comer,” he said. ”I want to highlight the value and centrality of the multistakeholder model for global governance in general, and how policy can be made in a flexible manner.”

He noted that there are now many advances being made in the development of personal wireless grids.

"The future of the Internet is not the Internet as we think of it now," he explained. "What I mean is that we are focusing now on the network infrastructure level, which is absolutely central and critical, but where people live is in a world of devices, digital machines around them that are on and off the Internet. They are on mobile devices, on TVs, computers, printers, everywhere around them, and this Internet of things – or all those things and the Internet are merging through mobile and wireless connectivity. This new capability of creating essentially a personal cyberstructure, a personal cloud of your machines, your devices, your content, associated with you through your known identity and trust, securely, is something I have been working on for seven or eight years, and it’s still in its mid- to early days."

McKnight shared briefly about his work with the testing and rollout of personal wireless grids. He noted that in the next few years the Wireless Grid Innovation Testbed, or WIDGIT, will release new technologies for trial, first through universities including Virginia Tech and Syracuse and later to end-users.

He said this could alter the horizon for concerns over privacy and other issues.

“This offers a new capability of creating a personal, trusted, community of your own machines, your own devices, your own friends, across mobile and wireless devices,” he said. “As this comes into the marketplace and enhances user experience, I expect some of these trust and identity issues that are so challenging at the scale of the whole Internet will be addressed. In this personal world, this future architecture is not about securing the entire Internet, it’s about trusting your friends and your friends’ machines.”
 

Response from RANDY GYLLENHAAL, senior in broadcast journalism at Elon University

Randy Gyllenhaal, the panel respondent representing young people, is a member of the documentary journalism crew reporting at IGF-USA for Imagining the Internet. He supplied the transcript of his contribution:

I’m no expert on the ins-and-outs of Internet politics, but I do fully understand my generation’s infatuation with being connected.

From the youngest age, we have understood what it means to be plugged in. We have grown up right alongside the Internet, more than any other generation… Instant messenger was introduce in middle school, MySpace came about in high school, YouTube and Facebook just in time for college…

I remember my first e-mail address, my first screen name, my first MySpace and my 4th MySpace.

But something Mr. Rainie said made me think… when Generation Y comes to power, how will we look at issues like copyright and information ownership?

As the Internet evolves and matures, we must evolve and mature with it – not something you’d expect to hear from a young person. - Randy Gyllenhaal

It’s been ingrained in our heads that the Internet is free. Napster taught us that music can be free, CNN.com taught us that news can be free – we’ve never had to pick up a newspaper in our lives.

Even TV can be free… yesterday I told my roommate to watch the new episode of “House” on Hulu… he said he didn’t want to sit through 30 seconds of ads…and would watch it on Ninjavideo…a site that streams TV and movies illegally. 30 seconds, that’s how A-D-D we are… it’s too much to bear.

My generation must grow up, and start taking responsibility for such a powerful tool that is the Internet. Nothing is free. The current model is not sustainable. Maybe I understand this more because I plan on going into journalism…but I hope others my age feel this way as well. - Gyllenhaal

We want more Internet. We want cloud computing, we want mobile everything, we want it now, we want it fast, and we want it free. But in the future, it can’t be free, can it?

Young people are totally in favor of expanding the Internet and creating more outlets for information. I just wonder if we’re willing to pay for it.
 

Response from MARC ROTENBERG, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center

Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center noted that he began working more than 15 years ago through a group called The Public Voice to promote positive decisions about the Internet – before the WSIS and IGF processes began – in order to get civil society involved in global decisions. “We felt it was important to have the voice of civil society in these discussions,” he said.

He joked that Lee Rainie’s talk was an unusual thing to see in Washington, D.C., because he admitted to the things he didn’t know about. Then he got serious. “Lee’s survey is particularly helpful, because it helps us understand both what we know about the Internet, people using the Internet, where the gaps – for example – exist in access to broadband – and then on some of the more difficult questions, really what we don’t know yet. These are questions we need to ask and look more closely at, and that’s enormously helpful.” he said. “I am very glad Lee used the ‘P word,’ which is not ‘privacy,’ it is ‘paradox.’ Because, increasingly, as we look at issues related to Internet policy we see a lot of paradox.”

He noted the conflicting desires people have to share things while also maintaining privacy online. “Try to friend your kids on Facebook,” he joked, “and you will get an instant lesson on the ongoing value of privacy."

"Even though people put out all of this personal information, they still feel that they want to exercise some control over it," he explained. "They don’t have a view that, ‘Oh, gee, I’m a data exhibitionist – everyone come and take a look.’ Their view is much more like, ‘Here’s a photo of my friend from the party last week, you four guys gotta check this out.’ It’s this desire to want to exercise some control over digital identity that is actually framing many of the big debates that are happening today in the online world."

He said when young people formed a protest group to dispute changes in Facebook’s terms of service it was a sign of their conflicted feelings. “To me, that was entirely a debate about privacy,” he said. “I don’t mean to go all Habermas on you, but this ability to negotiate public and private spaces is an essential part of the human condition and we’ve been doing it forever, from the village to the city to new communication networks to online communities and I don’t think anything there has changed. I just think you’re seeing it presented in a new way.”

He said transparency of government should be accompanied by government respect for individuals’ privacy. “A second paradox is the relationship between privacy and transparency,” he noted, saying that governments should be making their work more transparent.

"There’s no contradiction whatsoever between saying a government should be open and accountable for what it does and it still has to respect the privacy of the personal information it collects about its citizens about the information it collects about citizens," Rotenberg said. "That’s one of the big challenges we face in the information age – not letting the desire to ensure that the accountability for decision-makers – which is critical for democratic institutions – become an excuse to reveal the private facts of individuals, which really don’t relate to the activities of government."

He noted that there is a convergence of all of these concerns that leads to a need for a declaration of rights. “There has to be a discussion about a bill of rights for Internet users – we have to begin the discussion about protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of people who go online,” he concluded. “It’s a overdue debate.”

Audience questions and discussion at the morning plenary session

The panelists answered questions about finding ways to satisfy desires of people to share freely but somehow pay an appropriate price for the information they gain. “Most in my generation won’t want to pay for things because they are used to things being free,” Gyllenhaal said. “Young people will pay for things we use. I guarantee young people would pay for Facebook. It has become that important for us.”

Andrew McLaughlin came into this discussion in support of the principles many, including Chris Anderson (author of “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” and originator of the “Long Tail” idea in Internet economics), have brought to the forefront of the discussion of Internet economics. “Free doesn’t really mean ‘free,’” he said. “We have lots of media now that is free to the end-consumer in exchange for attention or something that benefits someone else. There will be things you are asked to pay for and things that third parties are asked to pay for.” He added it is important to find ways to properly “vindicate intellectual property rights” online and also address privacy, anonymity and authentication in the right way. “I find the ‘free’ debate to be kind of dissatisfying,” he said. “Free to the end-user still leaves you a broad way to pay for things.”

Lee McKnight noted that the issue is complicated. “It’s not just an issue of free and for-pay, there are barter arrangements that come into play as Internet governance has been progressing in these historic days,” he said. “Economic and competition policy will come to the fore… This is a ripe area for policy analysis and discussion at IGF in Egypt and over time as we continue to grapple over challenges.”

Rainie was asked about education and the Internet as an audience member noted how far behind education is in implementing the advantages of the Internet. “Participation matters,” he noted, saying it has been shown that students enjoy the ways in which they can be more active participants in their education when they can go online in classrooms.

McLaughlin chimed in. “The federal government is a disaster when it comes to using these new tools,” he said, noting that it blocks employees’ use of social networks.

“I hope that people less freaked out by these networks and systems will start running things,” he said, adding that every government employee should have a home page offering information they want to share and affording them the ability to collaborate with others in government. “That would drive a culture change that would be unstoppable,” he said, “and you would get the efficient task-oriented government we are trying to achieve.”

-Janna Anderson

* To read Lee Rainie's keynote speech, delivered before these respondents made these remarks, see 
http://www.elon.edu/e-web/
predictions/igf_usa/internet_evolution_plenary.xhtml

* To return to the homepage for Imagining the Internet's coverage of IGF-USA 2009, go to  
http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/igf_usa_2009.xhtml

MORE From IGF-USA in different formats

TheWordPress blog includes comprehensive details from every session, written by Colin Donohue, Morgan Little and Janna Anderson, documentary journalists of the Imagining the Internet Center: http://igfusa.wordpress.com

- The real-time Twittertweets reported by Imagining the Internet documentary journalists are here: http://www.twitter.com/ImagineInternet

- The main site used by the organizers of the 2009 IGF-USA is http://www.igf-usa.us/

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