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"For communication among alternative media producers, academics, artists, and activists." <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 2 Dec 2008 10:03:58 -0400
Morelis Gonzalo <[log in to unmask]>
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Morelis Gonzalo <[log in to unmask]>
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From: "Anja Kovacs" <[log in to unmask]>

Dear all,

Many people tend to take the commons and the public nature of the
Internet for granted. However, increasing corporatisation and control of
the Internet are strongly threatening these fundamental characteristics
of the Internet as we know it. In this context, six Indian civil society
organisations, have proposed an open letter to the UN Internet
Governance Forum which meets for its third annual meeting between 3rd
and 6th December in Hyderabad, and which is supposed to discuss these
very issues. The letter exhorts urgent global action to ensure that the
publicness and the egalitarian nature of the Internet are preserved as
its essential features. The possibilities of democracy, equity and
social justice in our societies will be significantly impacted by the
extent to which we can achieve this objective.

The proposed letter is pasted below. If you and/or your organization
would be happy to endorse this letter, please indicate so by emailing to
[log in to unmask] by the midnight of 1st December (India time). We
are eager to have as many signatories as possible to the letter, to
ensure that we give a strong civil society signal on these issues.

The proposed open letter can also be accessed at

Best wishes,

* An Open Letter to the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) *
* for its 3rd Annual Meeting at Hyderabad, India, from 3rd to 6th
December, 2008 *

The IGF must ACT NOW against the threat to the
public-ness and the egalitarian nature of the Internet *

The undersigned wish to express their deep concern that the UN Internet
Forum (IGF), created by the World Summit on the Information Society in
2005 as an
Internet ‘policy dialogue’ forum, is largely failing to address key
public interest and
policy issues in global Internet governance – including that of
democratic deficit.

*Who shapes the Internet, as the Internet shapes our new social context?*
The Internet represents the single most important technical advance of
our society in a
long time, so much so that it defines a new emerging social paradigm.
The basic
characteristics of the Internet determine the contours of the emerging
social order in
many important ways. The Internet was conceived as, and still largely
is, an extensive
communication system which is democratizing, and has little respect for
social hierarchies. Interactions and associations built over this new
system have, therefore, held the promise of a more egalitarian society.

The era of innocence of the Internet however appears to be fast
approaching its end.
Today, the Internet of the future – the very near future – is being
shaped insidiously by
dominant forces to further their interests. (See the fact-sheet on the
following page for
some illustrations of this.) Unfortunately, global policy forums have
largely failed to
articulate, much less act on, crucial Internet policy issues, which
concern the
democratic possibilities for our societies.

*The IGF needs to act now!*
As the Internet Governance Forum convenes for its third annual meeting,
between 3rd
and 6th December, 2008, in Hyderabad, India, it must take immediate
steps to anchor
and discuss important global public interest and policy issues involved
in Internet
governance. If it does not act now, it may get seen as a space that only
provides an
illusion of a public policy dialogue, and, consequently, as being
co-opted in furthering
the agenda of dominant forces that are shaping the Internet as per their
interests. *We therefore strongly urge the IGF to directly address the
following key
global public interest and policy issues:

1. Increasing corporatisation of the Internet
2. Increasing proprietisation of standards and code that go into
building the
3. Increasing points of control being embedded into the Internet in the
of security and intellectual property violations
4. Huge democratic deficit in global Internet governance *

We exhort the IGF to adopt clear directions for engaging with these
crucial public
policy issues. The IGF should come out with a clear work plan at its
meeting in Hyderabad to address the four key areas listed above.

The global community – comprising not only people who currently have
access to the
Internet, but also the un-connected billions who are being impacted by
it nevertheless
– will judge the meaningfulness and legitimacy of the IGF in terms of
what progress it
is able to make on these issues.
Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore
Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore
Delhi Science Forum, New Delhi
Free Software Foundation - India
IT for Change, Bangalore
Knowledge Commons, New Delhi *

*For endorsements and/or more information, please contact* Anja Kovacs
email: anja (at) itforchange.net, tel: +91 80 266554134, mobile: +91

* Information Sheet

How the Public-ness and Egalitarian Nature of the Internet is Threatened
Some Examples

Corporatisation of the Internet*
Largely unsuspected by most of its users, the Internet is rapidly
changing from being a
vast ‘public sphere’, with a fully public ownership and a
non-proprietary nature, to a
set of corporatised privately-owned networks.

On the one hand, telecom companies are carving out the Internet into
networks – controlling the nature of transactions over these networks.
They seek to
differentially charge content providers, while also building wholly
private networks
offering exclusive content relay services. Developments like video/TV
over Internet
Protocol and the provision of controlled and selective Internet services
over mobiles
are contributing to increasing network-operators’ control over the
Internet, with a
corresponding erosion of its public-ness.

On the other hand, the commons of the Internet is also being overwhelmed
squeezed out by a complete domination of a few privately owned
such as Google, Facebook, Youtube etc.

Proprietarisation of standards and code that build the Internet
One of the main ways of appropriating the commons of the Internet is
through the
increasing use of proprietary and closed standards and code in building
the Internet
system. Such appropriation allows the extortion of illegitimate rent out
of the many
new forms of commons-based activities that are being made possible
through the

Embedding control points in the Internet
A growing confluence of corporatist and statist interests has led to the
embedding of
more and more means of control into the Internet in a manner that greatly
compromises citizens’ rights and freedoms. Whether it is the pressure on
Service Providers to examine Internet traffic for ‘intellectual
property’ violations; or
imposition of cultural and political controls on the Internet by states
within their
boundaries; or ITU’s work on IP trace-back mechanisms; or the tightening
of US
control over the global Internet infrastructure in the name of securing
the root zone file
and the domain name system, these new forms of controlling the Internet
are being
negotiated among dominant interests away from public scrutiny and wider
interest-based engagements.

Democratic deficit in global Internet governance
The current global Internet governance regime – a new-age privatized
system professing allegiance mostly to a single country, the US – has
proven to be an
active instrument of perpetuation of dominant commercial and
geo-political interests.
Lately, OECD countries have begun some work on developing public policy
that, due to the inherently global nature of the Internet, can be
expected to become
globally applicable. It is quite unacceptable that OECD countries shirk
from discussing
the same public policy issues at global public policy forums like the
IGF that they
discuss among themselves at OECD meetings. Apparently, developing
countries are
expected to focus on finding ways to reach connectivity to their people,
and not burden
themselves with higher-level Internet governance issues!

People’s and communities’ right to self-determination and participation
in governance
of issues that impact their lives should underpin global Internet

Dr. Anja Kovacs
Senior Research Associate

IT for Change
Bridging Development Realities and Technological Possibilities
Tel: (00-91-80) 2665 4134, 2653 6890


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