Governance Frameworks for Critical Internet Resources

14 November 2007 - A Workshop on Critical Internet Resources in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


The Internet governance debate would benefit from a clear understanding of

(1) What resources are critical to the growth of the Internet, and its appropriation by all people and groups, including the disadvantaged,
(2) At what level, by what means, are Critical Internet resources (CIRs) governed, and should be governed, and
(3) The normative basis of different approaches to governance of CIRs 

In this Workshop, we want to outline the existing frameworks and discuss possible alternatives. 

Private commercial law, voluntary standards, community-based norms and practices, and national, regional and international law all have a role, and governance is exercised by private parties in contractual arrangements, by local/national regulators, by regional and international governmental institutions, by community of Internet users and by nongovernmental voluntary standards bodies of national, regional and international purview. This multi-stakeholder, multinational panel will map the current landscape of Internet governance mechanisms and institutions, and explore alternatives, including "commons-based" and "public interest-based" frameworks, providing a foundation for future work in this area.

As Internet becomes the infrastructure of ever-increasing extent of social, economic and political activities, the manner of governance of its core resources is a matter of importance for all. Important actors in this arena, apart from institutions directly dealing with governance of CIRs – ICANN, IETF, registries etc – are policy makers, civil society organization, standards organizations and various inter-governmental bodies. Importantly, as Internet takes an increasingly greater socio-political role, from its narrower technical role in the yester-years, Internet Governance arena needs to be opened to a larger stakeholder and political base. It is for this purpose that many civil society organizations, that may not have been very active in IG arena, but have been involved in related areas like community development, WTO, WIPO, governance, gender and media, etc have been involved in organizing this workshop, and more will be invited to participate.



IT for Change



Association for Progressive Communications (APC)



Information for the Third Sector (RITS)



Global Internet Policy Initiative (GIPI)



Internet Society – Bulgaria (ISOC-Bul)

Internet Community


Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT)






World Bank Legal Department (WB)






Third World Institute,



Public Affairs Centre



Agencia Latinoamericana de Información - ALAI País,




ISIS International, Manila



Gloria Bonder, - General Coordinator of the Regional UNESCO Chair Women, Science and Technology in Latin America


Academic sector



Reynolds Technology Pty Ltd,


Private sector



Internet Mark 2 Project

Private sector



1. Carlos Afonso - Carlos Afonso is a member of the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGIbr), the .br governance organization in Brazil, and the chair of Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) to ICANN. He is also planning director of Rits (Information Network for the Third Sector), a Brazilian NGO based in Rio, dedicated to public policy monitoring on ICTs, implementation of digital inclusion projects, and provision of Internet services to other non-profit organizations worldwide.

2. William Currie - Willie Currie is the Communications and Information Policy Programme Manager of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and has been involved in APC’s national, regional and global strategies regarding information and communications technology (ICT) policy and the internet over the last four years. From 1999 – 2002, Willie was a councilor on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and the South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SATRA). In the mid 90s, he was special adviser to Dr Pallo Jordan, Minister of Posts Telecommunications and Broadcasting in the first post-apartheid government. In this capacity, he coordinated the telecommunications policy process that led to the White Paper on Telecommunications Policy. Prior to this, as General Secretary of the Film and Allied Workers Organisation (FAWO), Willie was involved in the development of broadcasting policy during the transition to democracy in South Africa. Willie holds an MA in Film and Television Studies for Education from the University of London, Institute of Education. He is an associate of the LINK Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand.

3. James Dempsey - Jim Dempsey is Policy Director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, with offices in Washington and San Francisco. His areas of expertise include Internet privacy and government surveillance. He helped create and direct the Global Internet Policy Initiative (GIPI), providing policy assistance to governments and civil society in developing and transitional countries. He has prepared expert analyses of legislative proposals from around the world and has lectured and consulted internationally with governments and NGOs on Internet and other policy issues. He is the co-author of the book Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties in the Name of National Security (third edition, 2006), as well as law journal articles on communications privacy, Internet security and online freedom of expression. He is one of the lead authors of the Information Technology Security Handbook (infoDev 2003) He testifies frequently before the US Congress on Internet policy issues. Mr. Dempsey is a lawyer.

4. Milton Mueller - Milton L. Mueller is Professor at Syracuse University School of Information Studies. He directs the School’s Graduate Program in Telecommunications and Network Management. Mueller received the Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School, in 1989. He was one of the founders of the Internet Governance Project, an alliance of university scholars working on international Internet policy issues.Dr. Mueller’s research focuses on politics, property rights, institutions and global governance in communication and information industries. His widely-cited book Ruling the Root: Internet Governance and the Taming of Cyberspace (MIT Press 2002) explored how internetworking led to innovation in global institutions. His 1997 book Universal Service: Competition, Interconnection and Monopoly in the Making of the American Telephone System (MIT Press) set out a dramatic revision of our understanding of the origins of universal telephone service and the role of competition and interconnection in industry development. He is currently working on a book about Internet governance after the World Summit on the Information Society.

5. Gurumurthy Kasinathan - Gurumurthy Kasinathan is a founding Director of “IT for Change” (, a south based NGO that engages in the area of internet governance at global (WSIS and after) and national fora. He works with issues of information society relating to public interest, education, policy and governance. Gurumurthy works in the area of Education Management research at the Azim Premji Foundation, a non-profit that works in the area of primary education and is associated with the Policy Planning Unit, Education Department, Government of Karnataka which looks at education policy and management issues. He has worked on projects relating to the Organization restructuring of the department and on capacity building of the department functionaries and also the ‘Karnataka Schools for Quality Education’ a program that works on a variety of factors affecting quality of education in Government primary schools. Gurumurthy has over 15 years experience in Management Consulting, Information Technology and Audit. Gurumurthy has worked in all areas of the IT industry and has participated in all stages of the IT life cycle; including marketing, delivery, implementation, customer support and customer relationship. He has also worked extensively on IT product and project implementations and participated actively in Software Processes Maturity processes at I-flex solutions ltd.

6. Fernando Maresca - National Office of Information Technology - Argentina. Socio Principal de Estudio Jurídico Maltese & Maresca Abogados. Master en Derecho. LLM in information Technology and Telecommunication Law, Strathclyde University. United Kingdom. MBA - Master en Administración de Empresas IDEA . Instituto para el Desarrollo Empresarial de la Argentina. Consultor del Banco Mundial para el “Proyecto Modernización Del Estado” en la Oficina Nacional de Tecnologías Informáticas (ONTI), de la Subsecretaría de la Gestión Pública, Jefatura de Gabinetes de Ministros de la República Argentina en temas vinculados a la firma digital, software libre, delitos informáticos, privacidad y políticas de seguridad y todo aspecto vinculado al desarrollo del gobierno electrónico.. Expositor en diversos seminarios, cursos y postgrados sobre derecho informático y autor de diversos artículos de derecho informático publicados en revistas especializadas.

7. Rajnesh D. Singh - Mr. Singh is Chief Operating Officer of Patara Communications & Electronics Limited, Suva, Fiji Islands. (See He is Chairman of the Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society PICISOC, and founding and current President of the IPv6 Forum Pacific Islands. He is also Director of the Pacific Internet Technology Centre pacificIT and has been Co-ordinator of the Dynamic Coalition on Access and Connectivity for Remote, Rural and Dispersed Communities under the IGF. He organized and chaired a Workshop at the IGF meeting in Athens. For more details see Contact information: PATARA Communications & Electronics Ltd, 310 Princes Road Tamavua Suva Fiji Islands (PO Box 4160 Samabula Suva Fiji Islands) tel: 679 332 0606; e-mail:



David Satola - David Satola is Senior Counsel in the World Bank Legal Department where he has global responsibility for legal aspects of reforms in information and communications technologies, including telecommunications, the Internet and e-Commerce. His work focuses on legal aspects of the enabling environment for ICT infrastructure and services, Internet governance, new technologies (e.g., VoIP), competition regulation involving ICTs, Critical Infrastructure/Network Security and Alternative Dispute Resolution. His project work at the Bank spans more than 80 countries. He was seconded from the Bank to the UN’s Working Group on Internet Governance and acts as the Bank’s representative the Internet Governance Advisory Group to the UN’s Internet Governance Forum secretariat as well as to UNCITRAL’s Working Group on e-Commerce. He is the co-Chair of the Internet Governance Task Force of the Cyberlaw Committee of the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association. He received his BA and MA from The Johns Hopkins University, his JD from the University of Wisconsin and also studied at the London School of Economics and the Hague Academy of International Law. Prior to joining the Bank, Mr. Satola was in-house counsel for a major global telecommunications company responsible for investments in Latin America and Europe, was in private legal practice in both North America and Europe principally advising on telecommunications joint ventures and was the legal advisor to a human rights NGO. He has published articles, chapters and books on legal aspects of ICT reforms.


Aditional Information
The purpose of this workshop was to inform the Internet governance debate by outlining the existing frameworks and discuss possible alternatives concerning:
(1) what resources are critical to the growth of the Internet, and its appropriation by all people and groups, including the disadvantaged; (2) a what level, by what means, Critical Internet resources (CIRs) are governed, and should be governed; and (3) the normative basis of different approaches to governance of CIRs. Private commercial law, voluntary standards, community-based norms and practices, and national, regional and international law all have a role, and governance is exercised by private parties in contractual arrangements, by local/national regulators, by regional and international governmental institutions, by community of Internet users and by nongovernmental voluntary standards bodies of national, regional and international purview.


Dynamic factors fundamentally influence governance structures and institutions. As such, the process and evolution of governance models will need to take account of these dynamic factors. The panel mapped the current landscape of Internet governance mechanisms and institutions, and explored new approaches to address these dynamic influences, including "commons-based" and "public interest-based" frameworks, providing a foundation for future work in this area.


Panelists addressed the following themes and issues in the Workshop.

Mr Dempsey presented an overview description of "governance" and "critical Internet resources" in the context of a vision of the Internet as a widely available, affordable, open, trusted and secure medium While he argued for a broad definition of CIR, he stressed that the definition matters less than the the understanding that different institutions and different processes - some national, some global, some governmental, some non-governmental - have so far effectively "governed" different aspects of CIR. He stressed the responsibility of national governments for overcoming many of the barriers to Internet development. Finally, he warned against disproportionate focus on the crucial but comparatively small aspect of CIR overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Mr. Singh highlighted issues of CIR governance from the perspective of the Pacific Islands with an emphasis on some core and wider related CIRs, presenting a list of access-related issues which reflect CIRs in the wider context, and the underlying weakness in policy development to effect governance frameworks.

Mr. Barrio noted that CIR is a concept that has no clear definition and no clear boundaries, but there is certain agreement that includes things as energy, funding, IP numbers and the domain names systems between a longer list of CIR. The DNS and its relation with ICANN can be used to exemplify the legal issues underlying the current political debate and, arguably, show that through a proper legal architecture the contentious issues may be overcome. ICANN relation with the global DNS shows that a conundrum of local (Californian), domestic (US) and conflict of laws issues, where public and private law also interlink, only creates uncertainty and discontent and that proper action to give ICANN legitimacy through proper authority delegation and a clear legislative mandate needs to be sought.

Mr. Gurumurthy focused on commons and public interest-based frameworks, including the nature of governance of CIRs, and the need to assert and foster the complement of the ‘Public-ness’ in the governance discourse. The predominance of ‘North’ and the insistence of a ‘technical’ / ‘neutral’ approach to governance results in disproportionate and differential cost-benefits to certain countries and certain players. In that regard, he proposed the creation of a GTLD that will specifically cater to the need for a digital public domain – the Global Public Domain or the .gpd GTLD for global public goods content.

Mr. Afonso noted that the issue of CIR started during the WSIS process, then under the WGIG, and it was only included in this second IGF. The main CIR issue is the relationship between the U.S. government and ICANN, particularly “veto” rights over ICANN’s activities. Alternatives to the present arrangements could focus on the “internationalization” of ICANN, based on principles of transparency and independence, and will have to take account of the dynamics, particularly the demographic evolution, of Internet users.

Mr. Mueller noted that "Critical Internet Resources" clearly refers to global governance of internet identifier resources. He also returned to the issue of a commons-based approach to governance, noting that concepts of commons can co-exist with private property. Issues of "commons" and private property are often treated as a dichotomy. But in reality, private and public property can interact in a mutually supportive, productive way. The open standards that form a part of CIR, for example, work with privately-owned network infrastructure over which communications flow. Any attempt to do away completely with one or the other can be disastrous. In order to negotiate this problem, we need to understand property rights theory and transaction costs theory.
The IGP's proposal to make network neutrality a global principle is an attempt to find a creative combination of commons and private property. A neutral carrier allows new and innovative private services to develop. Mueller noted that a neutral network would have a much more profound effect on internet governance than the proposal for a new "global public domain" top level domain, because any domain now can and does carry open content, such as It is unlikely that this dynamic and robust environment needs to limit itself to one domain.


Finally, noting that events in the history of the evolution of the Internet have been influenced by existing great powers, Mr. Currie, echoing Mr. Afonso’s intervention, drew on Daniel Drezner’s work on “great powers” to postulate that as new “great powers” emerged (such as India and China) governance processes and structures would likely be influenced by them.


Presentations used and a background document made available at the workshop are available at the following links:
Background Document:


Inventory of events and actors related to the issue under discussion


WSIS and the IGF Rio discussions underlined the issue of governance frameworks for critical internet resources that would be transparent, fair and equitable.


The full range of stakeholders (governments, NGOs, civil society, academia, the technical community, the private sector) have been concerned with this issue and different suggestions and proposals have been discussed now and earlier


The discussion however also acquires significance because for quite sometime, some actors have been insisting that CIRs are a purely technical issue and their governance hence should not be discussed or contested. This workshop breaks ground in that regard


Possible follow-up


The organizers intend to prepare a more detailed summary of the proceedings of the session to be made available via a number of digital outlets, and will consider organizing a follow up session looking into more detail on possible future work in this area.


We will also explore the possibilities of a position paper that will explore different approaches to governance of CIRs and how this can be taken further in the next IGF in New Delhi.


Useful links (Internet Society - Bulgaria in Bulgarian and English; also only in English)