Net Neutrality and Global Internet Governance

 This paper discusses the concept of network neutrality (NN) and explores its relevance to global Internet governance.

 "The paper identifies three distinct ways in which the concept of network neutrality might attain a status as a globally applicable principle for Internet governance. First, NN can be promoted as a global norm to guide Internet policies, whether those policies are implemented domestically or internationally. That is, assuming that we agree on what a NN policy is and on its beneficial nature, then NN proposals can be picked up by public interest advocates, industry advocates and policy makers in many different nations and promoted in their own domestic telecommunication policy arenas. There is already evidence that the concept is diffusing globally in this respect.

Second, the norm of “neutrality” can be extended to the Internet’s technical coordination functions, which are global in nature. The coordination of Internet names and addresses, many believe, should be a neutral enabling function and not exploited for regulatory purposes. Debate about the applicability of this norm to ICANN’s activities already plays a significant role in the politics of ICANN.

Third, the concept of “nondiscriminatory access,” which underpins the idea of NN, is also central to the concept of free trade in goods and services. In the global information economy there is a close connection between a neutral Internet and nondiscriminatory market access. A concept of NN, therefore, could play a role in aligning the WTO regime with the global Internet governance regime. This aspect of NN is particularly important because it applies to state actors as well as to private network operators.

On this basis, the paper concludes that the concept of a “neutral” Internet has global applicability in a variety of contexts relevant to Internet governance. The paper concludes by describing the potential of NN to serve as a global principle, while also realistically assessing the obstacles to adoption and implementation such a principle would face."

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