Internet Governance Forum (IGF), Co-Hosted Workshop Network Neutrality – Examining the Issues and Implications for Development

Network Neutrality

The Internet is a communication platform that allows end-users to access content and content providers to connect with customers. This platform is multi-sided, meaning that incentives to invest and innovate in one side affect the others. Different aspects make network neutrality highly complex and frequently debated issue. While net neutrality has no single definition, in most general terms, net neutrality questions the right of network operators to deliver certain data packets faster than others based on the type of application, source and nature of content, and other criteria.

Network neutrality proponents contend that it is crucial for maintaining content innovation and diversity. Opponents counter such rules are unnecessary, can reduce investment in broadband infrastructure, and paradoxically may even reduce the incentives to develop certain applications in the future. The key point is if any regulations dictating how networks operate are likely to have broad effects beyond those the rules are intended to address, affecting incentives to invest in infrastructure and content.

Network neutrality has been debated in the United States for several years and is emerging as a major issue in Europe. The importance of this issue for the developing world and its possible effect on digital divide is often neglected: the Internet and broadband in particular, are much less widespread in poorer countries than in richer ones.

Maintaining incentives to invest in local Internet infrastructure and content remain crucial in developing countries if the Internet is to fulfill its promise in promoting economic growth and freedom of expression. At the same time, would explicitly allowing packet prioritization and new pricing models convey additional market power to a small number of incumbent companies, further disadvantaging consumers in developing countries?

This panel will discuss the economics and engineering aspects of networks and how network neutrality regulations might affect those investments. The workshop also aims at examining implications to the digital divide, by bringing different perspectives of the problem to the audience, and listening to their opinions.

The goal of the session is to discuss the implications of this debate and its outcomes to the developing word. It aims at raising awareness among the representatives of developing countries and encouraging them to get involved in the global debate in order to bring a strong emphasis on the perspective of the Global South.

DiploFoundation (www.diplomacy.edu) has been actively involved in the Internet Governance process since WSIS 2003 in Geneva. Over 500 professionals from over 70 developing countries were trained online and in-situ in Internet Governance Policy – issues, actors and processes – by DiploFoundation. Members of this worldwide community of professionals, representing global, regional and local stakeholders – governmental institutions as well as civil society, non-government organizations, business sector, media, academy and international organizations – have made remarkable policy and field-work in various IG-related issues, including Network neutrality. While few associates were invited as speakers of this panel, many more will participate actively as the audience.

Technology Policy Institute (www.techpolicyinstitute.org) is a non-profit research and education foundation that focuses on the economics of innovation, technological change, and related regulation in the United States and around the world. Its mission is to advance knowledge and inform policymakers by producing independent, rigorous research and by sponsoring educational programs and conferences on major issues affecting information technology and communications policy. TPI organized an Access Workshop session at the 2007 IGF.


Ambassador David Gross, U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy
Robert Guerra, Privaterra
Jovan Kurbalija, DiploFoundation
Thomas Lenard, Technology Policy Institute
Payal Malik, LIRNEasia / NCAER
Virginia Paque, United Nations Association of Venezuela / DiploFoundation
Robert Pepper, Cisco
Vladimir Radunovic, DiploFoundation

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