Elon University

Battle for control of the Internet?

Researchers from the Imagining the Internet Center conducted a video survey of WTPF and WSIS participants, recording interviews with more than 60 stakeholders from all sectors of society from across the world about the ongoing evolution of the Internet. Use the video viewer to see their responses. Click on the first video to begin a player that will cycle through all visible on this page or click on those you wish to view. To see additional videos, click on the numbers at the end of the video column to display additional videos – there are dozens more than you see here. The question on this page:

IS THERE A BATTLE FOR CONTROL OF THE INTERNET? Some global leaders have said the Internet is facing a dangerous time right now. Is there a battle for control, what do you think will happen next and what do you think should happen?

Among the respondents are Internet Hall of Fame members Louis Pouzin and Robert Kahn, ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré, the chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force, leaders from ICANN and the Internet Society, business and non-governmental organization leaders, communications policy people from 38 countries, including Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bhutan, Canada, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kenya, Kuwait, Lesotho, Montenegro, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Zambia, and citizens who were at the events for various reasons.


There has been more attention than ever before paid in 2012-13 to the ways in which the architecture and operations of the network of networks, the global Internet, are being managed and advanced.

Some people have gone public in labeling recent developments as building up to a “digital cold war,” and there have been some highly publicized disagreements at major global events such as the ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications, Dec. 3-14, 2012, in Dubai. The world’s governments had sent representatives there to consider possibly renegotiating telecommunications treaty language.

There was tension before, during and after the events of WCIT. People emerged with conflicting points of view about what really happened at WCIT, and clear divisions seemed to be drawn along cold-war boundaries. For instance, the US, most European nations and most democracies were not in favor of a WCIT proposal made by Algeria, Bahrain, China, Iraq, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates that called for an increased role for governments in Internet regulation that they said would lead to restrictions on access, content and privacy rights. The nations seeking more goverment regulation say their intention is to prevent spam, protect children and enhance security.

In response to expected moves by some nations at WCIT, the US House of Representatives voted 397-0 to approve a resolution charging the US government to fight the United Nations’ and ITU’s proposed regulatory initiatives. The European Union’s upper house, the European Parliament, joined the US to fight the ITU’s WCIT-12 plans as a unified bloc, and all 27 EU member states plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and others voted to oppose the ITU leadership’s work to gain more regulatory control over the Internet. While 89 member states of the UN’s ITU signed the final acts, 55 did not, and there was no consensus at WCIT on revised regulations.

Because a majority vote took place but many powerful nation states opposed it, there is contention about the outcomes of WCIT. You can read the ITU’s final report on WCIT here.

Best Bits, a coalition of civil society groups from around the world with participants that include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, issued a civil society statement to the ITU/WTPF on inclusiveness, transparency, openness and access to knowledge, net neutrality, privacy and security and freedom of expression.

Some observers have pointed out that the vote at WCIT shows that the leadership of those nation states whose leadership prefers the current status of openness and innovation on the Internet seem to be outnumbered by those who prefer reform, for a number of reasons, including both advancing the development agenda and enhancing control over people’s online actions.

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré acknowledged concerns about the politics of control in his talk at the WTPF 2013 opening ceremony. He wore a UN Peacekeepers helmet at the podium saying, “Many of you here today closely followed the proceedings of the WCIT at the end of last year in Dubai. In the run-up to that conference – and during the conference itself – there was a great deal of concern that ITU or the United Nations was trying to take control of the Internet. And it is my pleasure to announce to you today that we are not taking over the Internet.

Image of UN Peacekeeper Speaking at IGF “The UN peacekeepers, in their blue helmets, are not coming to take over the world’s IXPs. The UN peacekeepers are not coming to take over the Internet’s critical resources – including the root servers and the DNS. And my good friend Fadi Chehadé, the CEO of ICANN, can continue doing his good work over there – without me telling him what to do. Seriously – we never intended to take over the Internet. The Internet’s doing just fine!”

He continued later in the talk: “By the end of this year, there will be almost as many active mobile cellular phones as there are people on the planet, and some 2.7 billion people will be using the Internet – with 2.1 billion active mobile-broadband subscriptions. But at the end of this year almost 70% of people in the developing world will still be offline – with no access to the world’s greatest library, the world’s most active marketplace, and the world’s greatest social gatherings. This is something we must all work hard to change. Because it is clearly a matter of social and economic justice and fairness. It is also a fact – as several commentators, including Julius Genachowski, former FCC chairman, have pointed out recently – that all Internet users lose something when some countries are cut off from the World Wide Web.

“It is therefore vital to recognize the value of the Internet – as a global resource, basic commodity and valuable international platform for exchange and learning. We may differ in the wording, but we should all recognize the concept. That is why international forums for debate and exchange, such as the WTPF – one of ITU’s most free-thinking, free-ranging events – are essential: to ensure we maximize the value of this global resource for everyone. As the WCIT clearly demonstrated – on a whole range of issues – there is no single world view, but several. In the global village we need to ensure that all voices are heard – and wherever possible that all views are respected and accommodated. So let me encourage you to lead by example, and to put any past differences aside; let me urge you to look ahead, and to engage in discussion and dialogue – and to seek compromise, even if consensus cannot always be achieved. Let me encourage you to seek a shared vision.”

Members of the US House of Representatives were not placated by Tourés talk. In a 413-0 vote the same day, members passed H.R. 1580, which once again signaled the support of Congress for the continued development of the Internet without guidance from any single government or a collection of governments.

“Government’s hands-off approach has enabled the Internet’s rapid growth and made it a powerful engine of social and economic freedom,” said bill sponsor Greg Walden (R-Ore.) on the House floor. “This bipartisan bill is designed to combat recent efforts by some in the international community to regulate the Internet, which can jeopardize not only its vibrancy, but also the benefits that it brings to the entire world.”

People who participated in answering the survey questions include:
Nicola Treloar, Policy Advisor, New Zealand; Orebe ‘Tope, Nigerian Communications Commission International Affairs Unit; Ana Neves, Information Society Science and Technology Foundation, Portugal; Pascal Dutru, Regulatory Strategy & Policy Department Manager for the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology, Qatar; Kirill V. Oparin, Deputy Director, Ministry of Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation Department of International Cooperation;

Leonid Todorov, Deputy Director, External Relations for CCTLD, Russia; Nigel Hickson, Vice President, Europe, ICANN (from Belgium); Mark Patenaude, VP and General Manager, St. Joseph Communications, Canada; Wolfgang Kleinwächter, professor of Internet Policy and Regulation, University of Aarhus, Denmark; Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General, ITU (Mali native, resident of Switzerland); George Victor Salama, Senior Manager for Public Policy, Samena Telecommunications Council, United Arab Emirates; Sally Wentworth, Senior Director of Strategic Public Policy, Internet Society, United States;

Bocar Ba, CEO, Samena Telecommunications Council, United Arab Emirates; Nashwa Gad, Department Manager, US-WSIS & Internet Affairs, Arab Republic of Egypt Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Egypt; Ahmed Raghy, Deputy Director, Infrastructure Development Regulation, National Telecom Regulatory Authority, Egypt; Juuso Moisander, Information Society and ICTs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland; Louis Pouzin, President, Open-Root, France; Jari Arkko, Chair, Internet Engineering Task Force, Finland; Thomas Grob, Senior Expert, Regulatory Strategy and Economics, Deutsche Telekom, Germany;

Michael Rotert, European Federation of National Associations of Internet service providers; Riant Nugroho, Commissioner, Indonesian Telecommunications Regulatory Authority; Ahmad Bidabadi, Chairman of the Board, Data Processing Company, Iran; Stefano Ciccotti, CEO of Rai Way, Italy; Ramunè Petuchovaitè, Programme Manager, EIFL, Italy; Abdoulkarim Soumaila, Secretary-General, African Telecommuncations Union (ATU), Kenya; Paul Mitchell, Technology Policy Group, Microsoft, United States; Patrice Lyons, General Counsel, Corporation for National Research Initiatives, United States; Abubaker Ntambi, Research Specialist, Uganda Communications Commission, Uganda; Theo Cosmora, Founder & CEO, The People’s Vision, United Kingdom;

Harsha Liyanage, Managing Director of Fusion, Sri Lanka; Gary Anderson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer- Uraxs Communications, Switzerland; Dr. Robert Kahn, President & CEO, Corporation for National Research Initiatives, United States; Patrick Mutimushi, Director Technology & Engineering, Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority, Zambia; Elisabeth Rochman, WW Market Development Consultant, Hewlett Packard, Switzerland; Nevine Tewfik, Deputy Director, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Egypt;

Mohammad Ali Tifouni, Programmer, Civil Service Commission State of Kuwait, Kuwait; Hassame Makki, Representative, Swiss Delegation, Switzerland; Mustafa Khan, University of Frankfurt student, Pakistan; Patricio Carvajal, Digital Literacy Director, Ministerio de Telecomunicacio y de la Societal de la Informacion – Aulo Movil, Ecuador; Gjergji Gjinko, Director of Cabinet of Minister for Innovation and ICT, Albania;

Musab Abdulla, Manager of Strategy and PMP, Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, Bahrain; Aysel Garibzade, TASIM Coordinator, Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies, Azerbaijan; Abu Saeed Khan, Senior Policy Fellow, Lirne Asia, Bangladesh; Franc Dolenc, Director of Telecommunication, Slovenia; Helen Mason, Head of Operations, Child Helpline International, The Netherlands; Maseqobela Williams, Deputy Principal Secretary, Government of Lesotho, Lesotho; Ahmed Doeseri, Telecom Regulatory Authority, Bahrain;

Jasim Mohammed Al Senaidi, Representative, E-Omon, Oman; Boris Engelson, Freelance Journalist, Switzerland; Abdullah Rassam, TeleYemen Representative, Yemen; Ikhsam Baidirus, Head of Centre for International Affairs, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Indonesia; Abdulameer Al Lawati, Representative, Oman; Leulseged Alemie, Communication and IT Capacity- Building Director, Ethiopia; Ravi Prasad, Head of Policy and Research- Child Helpline International, The Netherlands; Ana Perdigao, Senior Consultant, Strategis Communications, Belgium; Roswitha Grass, NGO, Civil Society, Switzerland;

Dasho Kinley Dorji, Acting Minister, Ministry of Information and Communications Kingdom of Bhutan; Patrick Akers, Air Force Captain, ISAF Afghanistan, United States; Ewan Sutherland, Independent Telecommunication Policy Analyst, South Africa; Vujica Lazovic, Deputy Prime Minister for Information Society and Telecommunication, Montenegro.

– WTPF-WSIS 2013 video interviews were conducted by Joe Bruno, Ryan Greene, Brian Mezerski and Julie Morse, researchers from Elon University’s School of Communications, under the supervision of Brian Walsh, assistant professor, and Janna Anderson, associate professor and director of the Imagining the Internet Center.