Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Telecom Italia’s Response to the Consultation of the European Commission on the Role of Europe in Internet Governance.




Telecom Italia (hereafter TI) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the informal consultation on the role of Europe in Internet governance.

Internet is today at the center of the economic activity and social life of enterprises and citizens. Every day it becomes more important and more pervasive thanks to the massive investment in infrastructure made by the telcos, the hundreds of thousands of applications and services made available by the internet ecosystem of companies and developers,  the development of high speed mobile internet access, cloud computing and ubiquitous computing. We no longer need to go on the internet because we live in the Internet.

Internet has been a remarkable success and Telecom Italia shares the European Commission‘s view that this historical result has been to a large extent a consequence of the unregulated nature of this technology.

However, Internet was not designed for billions of people, and notably it was not designed to meet the needs of services that thirty years ago could not even be imagined. There is a growing concern that Internet is inherently incapable of dealing with today challenges such as data security, privacy protection, and inviolability of information and so on. [1]

To a large extent, Internet is victim of its own success and TI believes that it is reaching an important turning point that requires fundamental changes to guarantee a new wave of sustainable growth.

The technological and economic environment of Internet has dramatically changed since the mid-1990s, making Internet much more diverse and dynamic than in the past. According to the most recent literature[2] four major changes have forced the networks to evolve since then:

1) Increase in the number and diversity of end users: from a small population of scientists and researchers to a user base much larger, more diverse and less technologically sophisticated;

2) Increase in the diversity and intensity of applications: from low intensity bandwidth applications such as email and web‐browsing to videoconferencing, to online gaming which is much more bandwidth;

3) Increase in the variety of technologies: while in the mid‐90s access to the Internet was granted through dial‐up modems, now access is guaranteed through a variety of technologies such as cable modems, digital subscriber lines (DSL), fiber to the home and wireless solutions. These new technologies have different characteristics in terms of bandwidth, reliability and mobility, bringing a substantial degree of heterogeneity in the Internet world compared to the uniformity of the wireline solutions of the mid‐90s.

4) The emergence of more complex business relationships. In the mid‐90s, the topology of the Internet was characterized by a strict three‐level hierarchy: backbones, regional Internet service providers and last mile access providers. Now the Internet, as a network of networks, is characterized by a set of much more diverse business relationships such as, for instance, private peering and content delivery networks.


These technological and economic changes have placed increasing pressures on the Internet and in, particular, are leading, among other characteristics, towards:


1) changes in the optimal level of standardization to match the greater demand for heterogeneity;

2) the shift towards more formal governance to manage the increase in the number and heterogeneity of end users;

3) the migration of functions into the core of the network for a better management of security and congestion;

4) the growing complexity of internet pricing to support the new business relations of today Internet.


These technological and economic changes over the past fifteen‐plus years have made Internet a much more dynamic and heterogynous environment and are placing increasing pressures on the Internet to develop new architectural principles to cope with these new dynamics and to the Internet governance process to envisage new models able to better match governance issues with the right governance institutions.

Against this backdrop, TI believes that it is necessary to examine the current status of the Internet governance, of the institutions currently involved in this process and  assess how the Internet governance should evolve capitalizing on the strength of the past experiences and  aiming at fostering an open and inclusive Internet. 




Europe and the Internet in a global context


– What future, what challenges ahead?



The Internet is the lifeblood of all our activities today, an essential part of life in Europe,

touching everything we do, be it buy online, communicate with our friends, and yes – also

with public administrations.


The Internet is shared across national boundaries and has become a synonym for innovation.

The Internet economy is expected to grow almost 11% in the G20 markets, with a contribution to GDP rising from 4.1% in 2010 to 5.3% in 2016.1 For the EU, this is well above the overall GDP growth rate. This is an estimate; exactly because of the no-borders nature of the Internet, we are not fully able to quantify its effect on our economies. I am convinced that the real effect is even higher - because the Internet and digital are everywhere.


I also insist that we need to keep an Open Internet. But we need to make sure that everybody is in to help keep it open. This can only happen by international cooperation. Dilma Roussef has made this her cause at the last UN General Assembly. I will make sure that Europe plays its part. But I will also make sure that Europe has its stance.


Already two years ago, at the G8 summit in Deauville, the urgent need for stronger international cooperation on Internet matters was clearly put on the table. But have we delivered? There has certainly been much talk but not as much ability to bridge the North-South or East-West gulfs. In the EU, we see it is our responsibility to cooperate with and help build capacity in the developing world. This is why I recently put forward the idea of a Global Internet Policy Observatory, to help more actors (like developing countries) participate in Internet governance more effectively, through better access to key information.
Governance of the Internet


It is widely recognized that the early historic success of the Internet was to large extent a consequence of the unregulated nature of the nascent technology. Over the past decades, however, this hands-off approach was progressively replaced by a variety of approaches to Internet governance, carried by several national and international institutions with various – sometimes overlapping – claims to responsibility for Internet governance. A number of meetings have issued declarations on principles of Internet governance, for example the 2003-2005 World Summit on the Information Society, the 2008 OECD principles on "Internet policy-making"3 and the 2011 G8 Deauville Communiqué.


Principles-based frameworks are useful sign-posts in an on-going and evolving global debate on a rules-based approach to Internet-related policies. At the same time, there is a clear risk that fragmented, ad-hoc and sometimes purely reactive approaches to Internet-related policies and governance create barriers to future economic competitiveness.



  1. Is there a need to move toward one global principle-based framework?



Contrary to the past, the economics and the technology of Internet call today for more variety and Internet differentiation. While this process has been present for quite some time, it is today more visible, for instance, in the multi-lingual diversification of Internet. Last month, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced that the first new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) in Arabic, Cyrillic and Chinese from its new gT LD Program were delegated.


A more heterogeneous and diversified Internet might alarm many in the Internet community. Instead this process is quite desirable. Quite often we talk about the Internet as an ecosystem, but we forget that in any ecosystem a high degree of diversity is vital for the overall health and resilience of the system.


At the same time, TI believes that the Internet needs to be governed by a coherent set of principles shared by all stakeholders from various sector- business, government and civil society.

These principles should be based on a broad and open debate characterized by a constitutional effort and should encompass an overarching framework of universal values shared by the internet community. This effort could be achieved through a Convention on Internet principles.


Since the 2nd phase of WSIS in Tunis 2005, the discussion has moved on. The IGF is a living example of a successful implementation of the Tunis Agenda. Yet, we are not sure about its future. Intensive international work is on-going on different governance strands; to name but a few: UN CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation; the Internet Society ISOC's consultation, ITU Council Working Group on Internet public policy matters; ITU on WSIS Action Plan in preparation of the WSIS+10 Summit; ICANN strategy panels.



  1. Are we on the right track towards a system of governance on an equal footing?



The Internet Governance, after the WSIS in Tunis 2005, was conceived as a broader process involving not only technical issues, traditionally managed by ICANN but also more economic and political matters related to the development of the Internet ecosystem.  The IGF was created, in Tunis and has, so far, played an important role as a place to nurture the discussion on critical issues related to the internet future in a non-binding and consultative way.  However, its lack of funding makes its future uncertain. 


The increasing role of the government on Internet matters generated the creation of the Government Advisory Committee within ICANN, but only with a consultative role. 


However, the original process of Internet governance has produced different dynamics.  From one side, the tendency of many western governments, to relay less and less on the United Nations organizations and to use regional organization or ad hoc fora such as the OECD, the Council of Europe and more recently the G8 to discuss Internet policy issues (minilateralism). On the other side, some countries such as Russia and China have pushed for a broader involvement of the intergovernmental organizations like the ITU in the Internet Governance process.


The reactions to the results of the WCIT Conference in Dubai and to the recent operations of massive surveillance by secret services are calling for a change of pace in the Internet governance process, to make the current process much more based on equal footing among the different stakeholders.


ICANN is an important pillar of the Internet governance ecosystem that should have global accountability. Recently we have seen a move towards increased internationalization.



  1. Does the process of internationalization of ICANN go far enough?
  2. How can a move from unilateral to multilateral accountability be realized?


The concern for an ICANN to close to the oversight of the US government has always been present among many governments and some stakeholder in the Internet community.  But the consequences of the murky results of the WCIT Conference in Dubai and of the recent events related to the PRISM operation have impressed acceleration to the process of ICANN internationalization. This is confirmed by the recent Montevideo Declaration from the directors of all major Internet organization that called for” accelerating the globalization of ICANN and IANA functions, towards an environment in which all stakeholders, including all governments, participate on equal footing”.

TI, while believes  that a more transparent and more accountable ICANN has a fundamental role to play in the Internet governance process, supports the effort from the new ICANN President Fadì Chehade to make ICANN a truly international organization rebalancing the role that historically the US had in assigning the IANA contract for allocating addresses and managing the DNS root.  


  1. How do you see the role of governments within the GAC?


When it comes to the role of governments within the GAC it is important to mention two issues:


1) The more active role of governments in the Internet governance is here to stay;

2) The GAC itself is called upon managing critical issues which was not designed for.


The governments are playing an increasing role in the Internet arena for at least four reasons:


  1. They have realized the increasing importance of internet for businesses and society;
  2. The more heterogynous and dynamic Internet is creating a shift towards more formal models  of governance, calling for an increasing role of  governments for issues like security;
  3.  Geography is having its own revenge, giving to nation states more roles to play in the geopolitical arena.[3]
  4. The “code war” is involving already many states: according to some observers”, we’re already living in an age of state-led cyber war, even if most of us aren’t aware of it. [..].The logical conclusion of many more states coming online, building or buying cyber-attack capability and operating within competitive spheres of online influence is perpetual, permanent, low-grade cyber war”.[4]


At the same time, the GAC is called today to evaluate and assess issue that was not designed for: intellectual property rights, trade and privacy issues


This diverging dynamic between these issues is making the relations between ICANN and the GAC quite difficult and in many cases conflicting.

Against this backdrop, TI believes that the role of the GAC within ICANN should be better defined. Furthermore, EU government should be more active within this Committee and the overall influence of the GAC within ICANN should be increased to make ICANN more transparent ant accountable.



Architecture matters



The Internet should remain one single network of networks, where every node can communicate with every other. But there is nothing wrong with local or regional Internet traffic being routed close to home. This makes sense, both technically and economically.

Events this summer have made everybody, even the not-so-digital, painfully aware of the omnipresence and the power of what can be done with the Internet. Some have reacted by calling to withdraw inside national Internet borders or diversification of physical infrastructure.


  1. Do such calls pose a risk to the 'One Internet' principle?


  1. To what extent are the current debates on Internet governance sufficiently focusing on who controls key physical and logical resources (e.g. where does the majority of the traffic go to, who controls major Internet exchange points, how do key standardization efforts influence the balance of power among stakeholders?


  1. How can the risk be limited that separate network infrastructures co-exist or can be isolated from one another, thus undermining the One Internet principle?




TI believes that it is necessary to approach this topic without fostering stereotypes and promoting ideological approaches to Internet operations and dynamics. Internet, as networks of networks, has always been fragmented, but standardization has guaranteed interconnection and interoperability. In the past, the fundamental system that guided the interconnectivity and interoperability of individual networks has been uniform. Today there is no reason why it should continue to be so. [5] Today’s Internet is much more heterogeneous and dynamic than in the past and different variations of Internet are likely to emerge. Furthermore, as Internet is playing an increasing role in business and society, the stakes of the governments became too big to stay out of it. Since governments perspectives around the world diverge, their Internet views became divergent. This process of divergence will increase further as the Internet system becomes the platform for mass video media, where the values of different countries emerge more clearly. Already now we face a massive use of filtering in many regions of the world and this tendency is set to grow.

Furthermore, there are technical and economic reasons for the process of internet fragmentation to increase (Private networking, Decentralization of decision making, flexibility/innovation and so on). Today, telecom and cable TV companies build IP based networks that are outside the public internet to have control over performance and quality and to offer services that cannot be offered over the public internet system. A case in point is Xfinity of Comcast in the USA.

Therefore, as some analysts claim the process toward a federated internet is almost inevitable. [6] But, this does not mean that countries or regions will be disconnected from each other or that chaos will reign. Various mechanisms and arrangements could be envisaged to maintain connectivity and interoperability. Cloud providers could play a specific role as intermediaries in these processes.

Against this backdrop, TI supports the very balanced approach in the consultation document of the Commission where it states that “The Internet should remain one single network of networks, where every node can communicate with every other. But there is nothing wrong with local or regional Internet traffic being routed close to home …..“.
The multi-stakeholder approach


It is widely recognized that the multi-stakeholder model is an important factor for the success of the Internet. I fully support this model. But it is not enough to praise the model; we should help and reach out to those regions where the multi-stakeholder process is in its infancy. This is an obligation for all, not only governments, but also business and civil service as well.

To be sustainable, the multi-stakeholder model also needs to respond to some basic requirements. Already back in 2011, I have said that the multi-stakeholder process must be transparent and guarantee accountability. Have we made sufficient progress in identifying a set of minimum criteria? In my view, stakeholder processes must as a minimum be:

  • Transparent. All stakeholders must have meaningful access to and information on the organizational processes and procedures under which the body operates. This should allow in particular prevent any proxy activity for any silent stakeholders.


  • Balanced and Inclusive. Those responsible for an inclusive process must make a reasonable effort to reach out to all parties impacted by a given topic, and offer fair opportunities to participate and contribute to all key stages of decision making, while avoiding capture of the process by any dominant stakeholder or vested interests.


  • Accountable. This implies that the decision-making process includes clear, public commitments to give regular account to its stakeholders or independent oversight bodies, and to allow any party to seek redress.


Multi-stakeholder organizations that play an essential role for the functioning of the Internet should demonstrate that they are responsive to stakeholders, including governments. Of particular importance next to naming and addressing is work on protocols and standards and the legitimacy and transparency of the relevant processes.


  1. Do you think that the current multi-stakeholder model has enough legitimacy – both regarding process and stakeholders - given the fundamental impact of the Internet on our societies?
  2. How can capture of the process by vested interests be prevented?
  3. Where does the model need to be improved?


TI believes that the multi-stakeholder model while worked efficiently in ad hoc technical organizations, it requires a completely different effort to be successful when it is applied to global policy making.[7] The open nature of the multi-stakeholder process does not guarantee by itself an effective participation of all stakeholders. Indeed, participation today has become the main principle of any form of Internet governance. This process, sometimes called “participatory evangelism”, offers people opportunities to get involve but not to really count in the decision making process. Indeed “there is an important distinction between making your views known and making your views counts”. This is what quite often happens in the decision process of organizations such as ICANN. Analogous considerations can be made regarding the transparency of the multi-stakeholder process. Quite often information overload characterizes meetings and fora of the multi-stakeholder process creating real difficulties in identifying really important issues. Furthermore, different risks of capture by different groups (“Internet evangelists” or representatives from developed countries in the IGF or in the GAC within ICANN, or the private sector) have been suggested in the current process.   Therefore, a stronger effort is required by all parties to improve and make more successful this process.


At the same time, TI believes that it is necessary to recognize that today a new dynamic exists among stakeholders of the Internet governance process and that the more active role that governments want to play is here to stay.  This new dynamic among stakeholders associated with an overall increase of Internet differentiation brought by the economic and technological changes of the Internet of the last 15 years, suggest that it is increasing difficult that one single governance regime could address the broad range of concerns associated with today’s Internet.


Searching for a unitary governance framework could lead only towards an undesirable least common denominator. What is needed is to allow for a better match between governance issues and the best governance institutions available.  Therefore, TI suggests that the current system of governance should develop from a multi-stakeholder to multi-institutional governance. [8]


This approach should be seen as an evolution from the current institutions. In the current multi-stakeholder model a distinction between the concepts of shared and equal responsibility, should be made. While all stakeholders need to participate in the multi stakeholder model on equal footing when the different governance issues and governance institutions are envisaged and discussed, then in the implementation of the governance process one stakeholder or a coalition of stakeholders could  take the lead in this process according to the nature of the governance issue at stake: standards (the private sector), Internet issues relevant to particular communities (civil society), human rights (government). [9]

Therefore, this process, based on a multiplicity of institutions (multi-institutional), should allow for a better match of each type of governance challenge with the best governance institution. 



The Internet as a legal space



Businesses and citizens need legal certainty and a level playing field when acting in the global Internet space. The danger of fragmentation does not limit itself to the techno-geographical space on the map of the Internet. We also have to overcome legal fragmentation on the Internet. The answer cannot be that one single legal system should be dominant on the Internet. On the contrary, here again we have to cooperate globally to find workable solutions. Traditional treaty-based approaches tend to be long, thus leaving a gap in the meantime. But why should it be always the state alone that has the answer? Other stakeholders can make valuable contributions and be partners for timely, pragmatic and flexible legal instruments.

For this approach to be truly sustainable, we need to strengthen our reflections on the extent to which we can reasonably expect rules from only one part of the world to be automatically applied to everyone else.

The Internet exists beyond any national boundaries, and this poses a series of unresolved challenges for the application of law based on national jurisdictions or indeed international law. Extraterritorial application of national law has led to a number of contradictory legal decisions emerging from around the world.


Many activities on the Internet are increasingly governed by contractual arrangements between private companies and users on the Internet. Taken together with a lack of clarity on which law applies, legal uncertainty is potentially one of the major barriers to the future development of an innovative Internet. The two main questions that must be addressed are the inherent cross-border, cross-jurisdictional nature of the Internet and the conflicts between local law and private norms and requirements.

It is time to start an in-depth reflection on the future of international law and the Internet.



  1. In your view, is the current framework of international law sufficiently suited to the Internet?
  2. Which possible areas for improvement do you see as the most urgent?
  3. How do you think that discussions and solutions to these challenges should be designed?


The global reach of Internet and the related issues of jurisdiction and international organization make complex its relation with international law. There are ad hoc jurisdictional questions because the action in one country may have effects in another country.


At the same time, Cyberspace should be viewed as a common domain, together with the land, the sea, the air and the space; consequently, as the other domains, it has a specific need for coordination and cooperation among all States.


Therefore, TI believes that it is necessary to find the right balance between national sovereignty and supranational nature of the Internet and that there is also the need to strengthen International “legal basis” by means of international treaties.

International Treaties, for instance  in the area of cyber security,  one of the most critical area for Internet development, should establish a common understanding of what constitutes a crime  in the cyberspace; should suggest the harmonization   of legislations, making effective international justice and police cooperation. Overall, a global treaty should establish the principle that serious crimes against peace and security perpetrated through the Internet and cyberspace are crimes under international law, whether they are punishable under national law. The most serious crimes in the cyberspace should be defined and handled under international law.[10]


Overall, the adoption of international treaties and the implementations of control measures to ensure that the treaty is respected will be a long process but it would contribute to connecting the world in a more responsible way.


[1] The Future Internet”, ITU-T Technology Watch Report, April 2009; David Talbot (2005), “The Internet is broken”,  MIT Technology Review; WG-WSIS-18/05: ‘The 'future Internet'’ (V.3):; H. Kobayashi, Princeton University:

[2] See on this Christopher Yoo (2012), “The Dynamic Internet:How technologies, Users and Businesses  Are Transforming the Network”, AEI .

[3] See on this “Robert Kaplan(2013), The Revenge of Geography,Random House

[4] See on this “Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen (2013) , The New Digital Age, John Murray Publisher

[5] See on this Eli Noam “Towards the Federated Internet: if one Internet has been Good, Multiple Internets will be even Better”, Columbia University,  CITI Conference on Internet Governance,  June 2013.

[6] See Ibid

[7] See on this, Bertrand de la Chapelle (2011), Internet Policy Making, MIND . Furthermore, see IGP (2009)”ICANN, Inc: Accountability and participation in the governance of critical Internet Resources “

[8] See on this  Johannes Bauer (2011), “Panarchy:the future of Internet Governance”, Kiel Global Economic Symposium

[9] The matching process could also be facilitated by the creation of an ad hoc committee that, based on a multi-stakeholder membership, could suggest the most suitable governance institution. This idea has been mentioned at  the IGF in Bali (2013)  in  workshop n.41.

[10] Se  on this Ghernaouti (2013), Cyber Power, EPFL Press


*Telecom Italia sent this contribution to the European Commission via E-Mail on November 8 2013*

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Cristina MARTINEZ GONZALEZ European Commission DG CONNECT/02 Head of Sector 'Integration of Regulation, Policy and Research"
Vessela KARLOUKOVSKA European Commission, DG CONNECT Stakeholders Unit Policy officer
Prabhat AGARWAL European Commission DG CONNECT Policy Officer
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