[A2k] On the 10-Year Review of the Information Society -- Fwd: On WSIS+10 -- Fwd: Critical Comments on WSIS+10 Review

Seth Johnson seth.p.johnson at gmail.com
Sat Sep 27 12:41:36 PDT 2014

The letter below addresses my analysis of WSIS project Action Lines
affected by confusing open Internet with specialized services.

Relevant to:

The ITU Council Working Group on WSIS (the World Summit for the
Information Society) will meet this coming week to address WSIS+10
Review through next year.

That is, the ITU has hosted a process for reviewing the progress of
the WSIS project and those outputs will be handed to the UN for an
inter-governmental version of this review which will take place next
year.  The CWG on WSIS articulates operational approaches to these

The review is conducted with reference to WSIS Action Lines:

You can also find this letter here:


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Seth Johnson <seth.p.johnson at gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 7:39 AM
Subject: Critical Comments on WSIS+10 Review
To: Hamadoun Touré <hamadoun.toure at itu.int>, contact at ungis.org[,
numerous UNGIS contacts]

(Please see attached pdf of the following letter)

Dear Secretary-General Touré, UNGIS members and other participants and
observers of the 2014 WSIS+10 Review,

We are writing to note our concerns regarding the WSIS+10 Review,
since the process has not admitted critical contributions in the last
two months, including the inputs of Seth Johnson, who sought to take
part in the WSIS+10 Review beginning in March. While he was eventually
accredited for the May MPP and the present HLE/WSIS Forum meeting, his
submitted comments have not been admitted into the process.

Seth's contributions describe how the usage of key terms at the heart
of the WSIS project often work against its own goals as expressed in
the Action Lines. A candid review of the WSIS project must take this
type of input into account, and these concerns should be understood in
the next phases of the project, as the UN considers the course the
project will take after this year.

Seth identifies new priorities for the project based on its tendency
to encourage confusion of specialized services with the open Internet,
its working to implement a form of interoperability based on
conformance with policy without recognizing the maximal form of
interoperability already established between networks through the
Internet protocol, and its supporting vertically integrated
telecommunications environments while not adequately recognizing the
role of competitive access at the physical layer in supporting the
open Internet. He focuses on listing the numerous ways in which these
aspects of the project impact the Action Lines, including effects in
important areas of concern such as empowerment, digital inclusion and
capacity building; development, competition and the enabling
environment; openness, flexibility and innovation; governance and
cybersecurity; rights; and other areas.

We restate Seth's comments below, in the form of an open letter to the
UN GIS and the broader community of WSIS project participants, placing
his comments under useful headings and adding a few more comments
based on his analysis of the performance measures that the WSIS
project is using to quantify its progress. We believe that future
plans for the WSIS project should reflect these considerations.

The following paragraphs relate to the questions in the "Form 1"
submission form that participants in the WSIS+10 Review used for their
initial contributions to the process, and we have tagged each
paragraph with the numeric codes that correlate with the relevant
questions from that form.


Key Challenge: We recommend that the WSIS project act to secure the
open Internet by incorporating means for recognizing impacts on the
Internet's key characteristics as it proceeds to facilitate the
implementation of ICTs. (b1b)

Vision for Disadvantaged Groups: As a vision for addressing the needs
of disadvantaged groups, we recommend that the project assure that the
way the Internet empowers end users and independent providers be
secured by a process that incorporates recognition of the Internet's
key characteristics. (b1c)

Priority Implementation Issue: We recommend that the project pursue
the establishing of common understanding of key characteristics of the
Internet in order to set up systems to recognize impacts on its basic
nature and advantages. (b2c)

Improving Monitoring and Evaluation: We recommend that monitoring and
evaluation be improved by implementing performance measures that
reflect the distinction between open Internet and specialized
services. (b3a)

New Priorities and Objectives: Our review of the WSIS project reveals
critical areas for new priorities and objectives in relation to 1)
Action Line C2 (IC Infrastructure), wherein the project is acting to
replace open Internet with specialized service networks without
recognizing the difference; 2) in Action Line C5 (Confidence and
Security in ICTs), wherein the project is working to achieve
confidence on the basis of interoperability based on conformance with
policy without acknowledging the profound degree of confidence that
has already been achieved through the maximally flexible, general
purpose form of technical interoperability made possible across
networks by the Internet Protocol; and 3) in Action Line C6 (Enabling
Environment), wherein the project is framed in terms consistent with
policy environments that support vertically integrated
telecommunications contexts without recognizing that environments that
support competitive access to physical layer infrastructure enable a
context of competing and autonomous networks interoperating among
themselves to arise. (b2a2, b2a5, b2a6)

Priority Focuses, Goals and Targets: The priority focuses, goals and
targets we recommend for the WSIS project reflect the above new
priorities: 1) identify modalities for coexistence of open Internet
with specialized services, assuring the two are not conflated; 2)
before proceeding to operate under a general principle of "Internet
Universality" such as UNESCO recommends, first incorporate recognition
of two types of interoperability into the project: interoperability in
the sense of conformance with common policy, whether within or across
networks, and interoperability in the sense of technical, general
purpose interoperability that the Internet Protocol already makes
possible between networks; and 3) address the enabling environment
with explicit recognition of competitive access to physical layer
infrastructure in addition to policy contexts that support vertically
integrated telecommunications environments. (b3b)


We observe as a special comment that in general the WSIS project
encourages a confusion of the Internet with IP-based networks in
general, and it therefore enables a movement toward implementing
networks to support ICTs that may establish practices and policies
which may have adverse impacts on the openness, flexibility and
neutrality that arise naturally in an Internet platform made up of
competing and interoperating autonomous networks. (b4)

The following paragraphs enumerate trends that arise in relation to
the Action Lines as a result of the WSIS project's failure to
distinguish the Internet from other types of IP-based networks.

Empowerment, Digital Inclusion, Capacity Building:

If the difference is not recognized between what the open Internet
platform that arises among interoperating autonomous providers makes
possible, and the capacity for specialized services that individual
providers may implement within their own networks, then the outcome of
the Information Society project may easily be to supplant the type of
empowerment and digital inclusion that the Internet is designed to
bring, replacing it with narrower options that other types of
connectivity may entail, with pervasive effects on Action Lines C2,
C3, C4, C8 and C11. (b2b2, b2b3, b2b4, b2b8, b2b15, b2b18)

Failing to recognize the empowerment of end users and of independent
providers made possible by open Internet connectivity will lead to
overlooking of effects on self-determination, autonomy and
independence of communities such as the young people, women and girls,
nomadic and indigenous peoples, and communities residing in rural and
underserved regions which Action Line C4 references, or of the older
population, persons with disabilities, children and other
disadvantaged groups referenced by Action Line C2. (b2b2, b2b4)

The empowerment of end users made possible by an open Internet
platform made up of autonomous providers interoperating among
themselves is of a different character from that which managed service
frameworks enable within their individual networks, and from that
which may be expected in vertically integrated telecommunications
regimes such as we find in the United States. The types of ICT
applications that would be developed in all the categories covered by
Action Line C7 if they are not based on the open platform would
reflect this same difference in empowerment, and indeed end users
would be less able to freely develop these applications themselves.
This concern also relates to the nature of the national, regional and
international “broadband network” infrastructure that Action Line C2
advocates pursuing as the “essential foundation” for digital inclusion
in the Information Society. (b2b2, b2b7, b2b8, b2b9, b2b10, b2b11,
b2b12, b2b13, b2b14)

Conceptions of network types implied in Information Society
initiatives will affect access to information, cultural identity and
diversity, and international cooperation as envisioned by Action Lines
C3, C8 and C11. (b2b3, b2b15, b2b18)

These conceptions will affect the extent of empowerment that would
apply toward the calls in Action Line C8 to promote the production of
cultural works and local cultural industries, local community media,
local heritage and biological diversity, support for rural and
isolated communities, and local development for disadvantaged,
vulnerable, non-literate and disabled communities. (b2b15)

They will also affect the kinds of best practices that would be
recognized for promoting cultural and linguistic diversity and the
ways in which the capacity for indigenous peoples to develop works in
their language would be enhanced as advocated by Action Line C8. And
the role of diverse, local communities could be altered as the
public/private partnerships to promote cultural diversity, local and
national works, and “ICT-based works” that C8 encourages, interact
with policy and regulatory contexts associated with network
infrastructure, potentially producing new formulations of the role of
the government and private parties and of the nature of the
telecommunications regime. (b2b15)

The nature of the network will affect the content of the programmes
for capacity building, lifelong learning and universal education,
including the substance of courses in public administration, the
nature of the qualifications of ICT experts, and the role to be played
by the libraries, multipurpose community centers, local ICT training
centers, and public access points advocated by Action Line C4.
Conceptions of the network will also have impacts on Action Line C7's
promotion of e-learning and e-science in relation to qualifications of
ICT experts, accessibility and affordability of scientific
information, the effective use of scientific information, and the role
of universities and research institutions. (b2b4, b2b9, b2b14)

Development, Competition, the Enabling Environment:

A failure to recognize the characteristics of the Internet in the
Information Society’s initiatives will affect the goals of building
confidence and security in relation to the enabling environment for
development as called for by Action Line C6, given that understandings
of what constitutes a pro-competitive policy, legal and regulatory
context, and what appropriate incentives are, may reflect the
characteristics of other types of networks. (b2b6)

This includes the types of national policies for promoting investment
in infrastructure and new services called for in Action Line C2,
notably the incentivizing of infrastructure investment by treating
privileged access to the physical layer as a “supply” vertically
integrated with the production processes of higher layer services
offered by telecommunications incumbents, or the defining of policy
frameworks associated with the term “broadband.” These approaches may
enable various forms of price differentiation or tiers of service that
can be readily implemented within individual intranets, but not across
autonomous internetworking providers. (b2b2)

The types of commercially negotiated transit and interconnection
arrangements for global connectivity that Action Line C2 urges
pursuing could supplant the unique strengths and advantages of the
Internet if its characteristics are not delineated, and the advocating
of “objective, transparent and non-discriminatory parameters” for
connectivity in Action Line C2 could serve to replace recognition of
how the basis of the Internet in competitive interoperation among
independent providers can serve inclusivity by assuring the openness
of the platform is maintained by competitive pressure. (b2b2)

Action Line C7 seeks to support sustainable development and diverse
applications for public administration, business and numerous areas of
life that may be benefited by the Information Society. If policies for
promoting development of infrastructure and services are based on
vertical integration, this may support the sustainability of that type
of network, but it will not sustain the open Internet. End users would
be less able to freely develop applications themselves in a managed
service network or a vertically integrated telecommunications context,
and the diversity of types of ICT applications that would be developed
and supported in all the Action Line C7 categories would be adversely
affected if they are not based on an open platform. (b2b7, b2b8, b2b9,
b2b10, b2b11, b2b12, b2b13, b2b14)

The effects on e-business and e-employment in terms of economic
growth, opportunities, productivity, well-being, poverty,
international trade, investment and innovation, and assistance to
SMEs, as called for under Action Line C7, will vary depending on the
flexibility and openness of the network. (b2b8, b2b11)

Failing to recognize the nature of the Internet could affect not only
the type of connectivity that would be made available in service of
Action Line C11's calls for universal access and bridging of the
digital divide, and for international cooperation on infrastructure
development projects, but also the nature of the public-private
partnerships also called for by Action Line C11. In policy and
regulatory contexts that do not promote competitive access to the
physical layer, as we find in contexts that maintain vertically
integrated telecommunications environments, the promotion of
public-private partnerships can tend to entrench that pattern if those
arrangements do not incorporate appropriate recognition of the role of
public oversight of shared physical layer infrastructure. (b2b18)

Openness, Flexibility, Innovation:

The openness and flexibility of the Internet platform is supported by
competitive access at the physical layer, since competing providers
must transmit packets in a general purpose manner in order to
interoperate and provide global connectivity to their users. As a
result our confidence that the platform will support our ability to
innovate can be affected deleteriously if other types of networks are
employed to serve public security purposes through a core authority
without recognizing the impact those means would have on the Internet.
(b2b5, b2b6)

Some types of incentives for infrastructure development may be built
on capacities made possible in managed service frameworks (such as
discrete tiers of service allowing differentiated price schemes), or
that may be enabled by a regulatory environment that allows incumbents
to treat the infrastructure they install at the physical layer as a
private asset supplying a vertically integrated production process.
Our confidence that the platform will support innovation can be
undermined in contexts driven by these approaches to encouraging
development, which are distinct in nature from an approach based on an
Internet platform among autonomous providers who drive demand for
buildout through independent innovation in services as they compete
and interoperate at the physical layer. (b2b6)

Policies associated with document identifiers and electronic
authentication of transactions can interfere with the openness and
flexibility of the Internet platform if their impacts on its
collaborative and interactive attributes are not properly appreciated.

Governance and Cybersecurity:

A failure to address the nature of the Internet as distinct from other
types of networks supporting specialized treatment of packets will
have impacts on concerns related to governance under Action Line C6
including how we define internet governance, public policy issues, and
roles and responsibilities of various parties, how various technology
policies relate to national strategies for public administration, and
the effect of enforcement of e-commerce, online transactions and
policies on the dynamic, interactive and collaborative capacities of
the open Internet. (b2b6)

Failing to recognize the Internet's special characteristics would also
affect how connectivity would work as the “fundamental working tool”
for local governance that Action Line C3 recommends recognizing.

In the context of e-government under Action Line C7, transparency,
accountability and efficiency are served most reliably by a
competitive telecommunications environment populated by independent
providers who will agitate for accountability when their ability to
use the Internet platform in the maximally flexible way it was
designed for is impeded. Accountability also relates to the
relationship between a government and its people, within the context
of which people's rights are defined, and a competitive
telecommunications environment supports effective forms of
accountability in relation to rights as well as in relation to the
flexibility of the platform. (b2b7)

Failing to recognize the unique characteristics of the Internet will
also affect what comes to be understood as cybercrime and misuse of
ICTs in the context of Action Line C5, and what confidence and
security mean, both in terms of government enforcement of policy to
prevent crime or harm, and in terms of how well we may rely on
fundamental liberties as limits on government actions in the name of
cybersecurity. It will also affect understandings of the implications
of centralized or decentralized approaches to cybersecurity concerns
including areas such as spam and the nature of the roles of the
government and of network providers in many areas including real-time
incident response. Policies and approaches may easily be of a type
only enforceable within centrally-managed intranet environments, and
in the international context they may not be as well subject to the
claims of fundamental liberties as they are in free national contexts.
Policies associated with document identifiers and electronic
authentication of transactions, also referenced in the cybersecurity
context, can interfere with the openness and flexibility of the
Internet platform if those attributes are not explicitly acknowledged
and confronted. (b2b5)


Like the effect on our confidence that the platform will support
innovation in the contexts of Action Lines C5 and C6, overlooking the
nature of the Internet will also affect our confidence that the
platform will support freedoms of speech, press and association, as
well as the right to be secure against unreasonable searches. Not only
are these rights exercised more freely on an open and flexible
Internet platform among autonomous and interoperating providers, but a
vertically integrated telecommunications context works to the
detriment of securing rights as limits on the government. (b2b5, b2b6)

If the telecommunications environment is vertically integrated, the
implication is that infrastructure will be treated as a private asset
of those who install it across the right of way, and as a result
fundamental liberties related to the communications of citizens,
understood as limits on the government, may be characterized as
inapplicable. Indeed in that framework oversight of public franchise
entities and common carriers in the form of regulation of
infrastructure might be characterized as a violation of the rights of
those who installed the infrastructure, rather than as a natural
reflection of the nature of the right of way as a resource that must
be governed to oversee access and foster competition. A context that
regulates infrastructure in these terms recognizes this oversight more
readily as a government function, which is thus directly barred from
abridging the fundamental liberties of the general public, and
incumbents in such a context naturally may incur obligations,
including limitations that reflect those that apply to the government,
in connection with their administration of a public franchise and
privileged access to right of way. So security in the sense of
reliable support for fundamental liberties may be affected when the
foundation of the Internet in competitive access at the physical layer
is overlooked, and infrastructure is instead treated as private assets
vertically integrated with the products and services of incumbent
providers. (b2b5, b2b6)

A failure to acknowledge the characteristics of the Internet will also
affect the goals of promoting rights to privacy, data and consumer
protection referenced in Action Lines C5 and C6. The conflicting
understanding of the roles of public oversight and private parties
derived from the telecommunications policy and regulatory environment
as described above, can affect the nature of user education regarding
privacy online, and of the initiatives and guidelines for rights of
privacy, data and consumer protection encouraged by Action Lines C5
and C6. (b2b5, b2b6)

Other Trends:

The Information Society's failure to distinguish the open Internet
from specialized service networks will also have other implications
for the WSIS Action Lines.

It will affect the type of connectivity that would be established for
schools, universities, health institutions, libraries, post offices,
community centers, museums, and other public institutions according to
the call in Action Line C2, and the nature of the pilot networking
projects among education, training and research institutions between
developing and developed countries, and in fact the very kinds of ICTs
that would be recognized as appropriate for integration into education
and training, referenced by Action Line C4. It will also affect the
kind of connectivity that would be made available for international
cooperation on infrastructure development projects as called for in
Action line C11. (b2b2, b2b4, b2b18)

It will affect the types of educational, administrative and
legislative measures to serve various disadvantaged groups, and indeed
the type of end user equipment, that Action Line C2 encourages
promoting. And it would affect the universal access policies and
strategies and connectivity indicators, systems standards, technical,
regulatory and operational studies in public/private partnerships, as
well as access to orbital resources, satellite for underserved areas,
and frequency harmonization advocated by Action Line C2. (b2b2)

It will affect types of information made available, what would count
as public domain, the forms of use and sharing of information that
would be supported, whether technically or by policy, the kinds of
exclusive rights that would apply in the context of the capabilities
of the technology, and the roles that would be played by multi-purpose
community public access points, all referenced by Action Line C3.

It will affect the open, interoperable, non-discriminatory standards,
and the nature of the secure storage framework that Action Line C6
calls for. (b2b6)

Additional Comments: WSIS Performance Measures

We also call attention to Seth's analysis of the ITU's performance
measures for measuring the progress of the WSIS project, found at

The ITU's performance measures essentially treat all high speed
connectivity as Internet without recognizing a distinction between
open Internet connectivity based on autonomous networks interoperating
among themselves by transmitting packets without regard for
application, and networks that support services based on more
specialized treatment of packets.

Among these measures, the Revenue and Investment indicator is defined
in terms of industry categories that make up the telecommunications
sector as defined in the International Standard Industrial
Classification (ISIC), Rev. 4. Among industry categories included
under telecommunications, the ISIC refers to the Internet solely in
relation to a vertically integrated context (“provision of Internet
access by the operator of the wired infrastructure”) and not in
relation to shared physical infrastructure (“purchasing access and
network capacity from owners and operators of networks and providing
telecommunications services using this capacity”).

These observations illustrate that the WSIS project's failing to
distinguish the Internet from other types of IP-based networks is a
systemic problem, built into the definitions of the measures that the
project uses to assess its success and progress.

We recommend not only that the WSIS performance measures distinguish
open Internet from specialized services, but that they also be
designed to track vertically integrated telecommunications contexts
distinctly from contexts assuring competitive access to physical layer

We urge that assessment of the progress of the WSIS project, including
the WSIS+10 Review, be performed as much as possible in the above
terms, addressing characteristics and advantages of the Internet that
are uniquely conducive to WSIS and broader UN goals, as well as
tracking effects of different types of networks on these goals and on
each other.

We recommend that United Nations agencies, including those
constituting the UN GIS, incorporate these insights in framing the
contribution of technologies and development programs to broader UN
goals, as well as in areas of concern related to Internet Governance,
including Enhanced Cooperation, proceedings of the Internet Governance
Forum, and various other proceedings such as those related to
Internet-related Public Policy Issues.

Signed (affiliations listed for identification purposes only):

Michel Bauwens, P2P Foundation
Robin Chase, Founder, Zipcar, GoLoco, Buzzcar, Veniam 'Works
Gene Gaines, Gaines Group
Robert Gregory, BSEE, UCB, Non-Profit IT Director and IP Network Evangelist
Robin Gross, Executive Director, IP Justice
Michael Maranda, Co-Founder, Chicago Digital Access Alliance
Sascha Meinrath, Director, X-Lab, Founder, Open Technology Institute
John T. Mitchell, Interaction Law
Hunter Newby, CEO, Allied Fiber
Bruce Perens, co-founder of the Open Source movement in software
Ian Peter, Internet Consultant and Owner, Ian Peter and Associates
David P. Reed, Ph.D., Internet Pioneer
Chuck Sherwood, Principal, Community Media Visioning
Clay Shirky, Interactive Telecommunications Program, New York University
Aram Sinnreich, Ph.D., Author and Journalist, Assistant Professor, Rutgers
Jay Sulzberger, Statistical Consultant
Brough Turner, Founder, netBlazr Inc ., Co-founder & former CTO of NMS
Communications and of Natural MicroSystems
Paul Vixie, CEO, Farsight Security
John G. Waclawsky Ph.D., Technology Advisor and Consultant, Chicago
and Washington
John Wilbanks, Chief Commons Officer at Sage Bionetworks

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