Discussions and recommendations from the IBSA seminar on Internet Governance

The IBSA Seminar on Global Internet Governance was held on 1 and 2 September at Fundação Getulio Vargas, in Rio de Janeiro. The event was sponsored by the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations, with support from the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) and the Center for Technology & Society (CTS/FGV) .

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss substantive and institutional issues that are currently on the agenda of Internet governance, seeking to identify the interests and priorities of the actors from the three countries.

The event began with a panel that aimed to identify the main policy and regulatory initiatives under discussion from a developing country perspective. Some socio-economic reflections were also shared by the speakers as a background for the discussion:

– We are moving from a non-commercial network developed with public investment to an increasingly commercialized terrain, with greater monopolization. Technological barriers to entry (devices, apps) also create monopolies

– Companies use surplus capital to buy-out any competition, undertake mergers, and integrate their monopolies horizontally. Most monopolies are in the North, but within and between developing countries trend towards monopolies exist

– Electromagnetic spectrum remains extensive and largely un-utilized.

– Sea cable deployment and provinces creating their broadband strategy, in which broadband should be funded by national fiscus, were mentioned as good practices

– It was pointed out that some issues need to be observed when deploying infrastructure, such as: ownership of both concept and infrastructure must be at community grassroots level; projects need to have both a business proposition and a sound social proposition; there should be involvement of bottom two tiers of government, specially on the local level; narrow focus on infrastructure and technical issues lead to failure; public-Private-People Partnerships are required.

– Innovation was pointed out as a key issue. Developing countries need to promote and fund technology incubation to make sure innovative ideas and business models are given birth in the South or East –and are wholly owned and operated in developing countries. They need to ensure that efficient research networks and collaboration between scientists working in this field are created.

Afterwards, there were panels held on specific themes: infrastructure, critical resources, regulatory principles, rights and institutional arrangements. Participants identified that some traditional themes should continue on the agenda, as priority issues, such as the cost of access, the use of the spectrum (especially in the context of mobile internet), the migration from IPv4 to IPv6, the provision of band-broadband optical fiber, consumer rights, and promoting access to content.

Other issues were highlighted as important, and require more involvement and attention of IBSA actors, such as: jurisdiction and cross border issues, commerce and tax issues, open standards and net neutrality, security and media convergence.

On the course of the event, a background paper was made available by IT for Change to all participants, as contribution to the discussions.

With regard to discussions of institutional arrangements, participants recognized the important role that the IGF plays in the Internet Governance regime, as a space for raising awareness, for capacity building, for identifying relevant public policy issues.

At the same time, it was argued the existing arrangements do not implement the ideal of enhanced cooperation, as advanced in paragraph 69 of the Tunis Agenda. EC is needed as a platform to the development of public policies, on many of the fields mentioned above. The institutional gap in policy making is currently being filled by regional and plurilateral regulation and by self-regulation from global companies.

There was strong support for the IGF to be included as an integral part of the design of a future mechanism of enhanced cooperation, and also for multistakeholder involvement on this mechanism.

The government representatives of IBSA drafted a set of recommendations, with focus on institutional improvement. The document will be forwarded to the next IBSA summit, in South Africa.

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