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Protocol Politics

Protocol Politics: The Globalization of Internet Governance

Laura DeNardis
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Protocol Politics
    Book Description:

    The Internet has reached a critical point. The world is running out of Internet addresses. There is a finite supply of approximately 4.3 billion Internet Protocol (IP) addresses--the unique binary numbers required for every exchange of information over the Internet--within the Internet's prevailing technical architecture (IPv4). In the 1990s the Internet standards community selected a new protocol (IPv6) that would expand the number of Internet addresses exponentially--to 340 undecillion addresses. Despite a decade of predictions about imminent global conversion, IPv6 adoption has barely begun.Protocol Politicsexamines what's at stake politically, economically, and technically in the selection and adoption of a new Internet protocol. Laura DeNardis's key insight is that protocols are political. IPv6 intersects with provocative topics including Internet civil liberties, US military objectives, globalization, institutional power struggles, and the promise of global democratic freedoms. DeNardis offers recommendations for Internet standards governance, based not only on technical concerns but on principles of openness and transparency, and examines the global implications of looming Internet address scarcity versus the slow deployment of the new protocol designed to solve this problem.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-25873-9
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Scarcity and Internet Governance
    (pp. 1-24)

    The Internet is approaching a critical point. The world is running out of Internet addresses. A tacit assumption of the twenty-first century is that sustained Internet growth will accompany the contemporary forces of economic and technological globalization. The ongoing global spread of culture and ideas on the Internet is expected to promote economic opportunity, human flourishing, and the ongoing decentralization of innovation and information production. This possibility is not preordained. It requires the ongoing availability of a technology commons in which the resources necessary for exchanging knowledge are openly and abundantly available. It depends on the availability of open technical...

  5. 2 Protocol Selection as Power Selection
    (pp. 25-70)

    Internet engineers long ago forecasted that Internet addresses would become critically scarce. These concerns surfaced in 1990 in a world in which the web did not yet exist, prior to the founding of Internet companies such as Amazon, Netscape, or Yahoo!, and long before the existence of Google, Facebook, or Wikipedia. The Internet was growing internationally but Americans were still the predominant users and developers. Businesses did not use the Internet to any great extent, and most of the public was unaware of its existence. The Internet’s most popular application was text-based email, and it did not yet support voice,...

  6. 3 Architecting Civil Liberties
    (pp. 71-96)

    Protocols are political. They perform some technical function but can shape online civil liberties in unexpected ways. It is well understood how decisions about encryption protocols must strike a balance between providing individual privacy online and responding to law enforcement and national security needs. Other protocols are not specifically designed to address user privacy but nevertheless have significant privacy implications. This chapter examines how protocol design decisions, including choices made about the final IPv6 specifications, embed the values of standards designers and can serve as alternative forms of public policy not established by legislatures but by Internet designers.

    From critical...

  7. 4 The Politics of Protocol Adoption
    (pp. 97-138)

    The most striking aspect of the evolution toward a new Internet protocol is the disconnect between promises of imminent migration versus the realities of negligible IPv6 deployment. This chapter shifts attention from IPv6 development within the Internet’s standards-setting community to the topic of IPv6 adoption. The IETF completed the core IPv6 specifications in 1998.² Beginning in 2000, governments in China, Japan, the European Union, Korea, and India viewed IPv6 as a national priority and inaugurated policies to rapidly drive deployment. The United States, with a dominant Internet industry and ample addresses, remained relatively disinterested in IPv6 until the Department of...

  8. 5 The Internet Address Space
    (pp. 139-186)

    Internet addresses are the new artifacts of the information age. They are the finite resources necessary for being online. The design of the Internet’s underlying architecture dictates that each virtual address used to route information over a network must be globally unique. Maintaining this global uniqueness has required centralized oversight of the finite pool of IP addresses so that duplicate addresses are not concurrently used. This address management function is one of the most centralized of Internet governance functions. While coordination is centralized, IP addresses are completely virtual, not necessarily tied to geographical location, and universal. Unless specifically filtered out...

  9. 6 Opening Internet Governance
    (pp. 187-230)

    One of the most significant developments in the history of the Internet has been the near exhaustion of the Internet address space. The successful growth of the Internet, more than anything else, has consumed many of these 4.3 billion Internet addresses. But institutional policies, technical design choices, and uneven geographical distribution of addresses have also played significant roles. Internet address scarcity was not a sudden phenomenon, but a gradual development foreseen by Internet designers beginning in 1990, long before widespread public Internet use. The Internet Protocol, with its 32-bit address length, created the Internet address space in 1981. The Internet...

  10. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 231-236)
  11. Technical Appendix
    (pp. 237-242)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 243-252)
  13. Index
    (pp. 253-270)