The definition of Internet Governance remains broad and dependent on the context of the situation. It is important to understand that the term is not restricted to the activities of governments, however for purposes of this paper I will primarily be exploring the arguments and issues surrounding legal regulation of the Internet including factors shaping the debate such as the political environment, open information sharing, and the significance of international collaboration on this topic. It is also key to understand how the mechanics of the Internet infrastructure allow for low barriers to entry which in turn makes security and control at the state level difficult. By governance, I’m refering to the processes and institutions, both formal and informal, that guide and restrain the collective activities of a group (Keohane, 2002). Much of Internet Governance (IG) currently is controlled by one global institution The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The organization operates as a mostly independent nonprofit which derives power from the US Department of Congress. It is easiest to think of them as the phonebook of the internet, or a switchboard connecting point A to point B. Most of the internets 2.8 billion users reside outside of the US and although the American government has never blocked any changes proposed by ICANN, they continue to hold the keys to what could easily considered a digital hegemony (Doing the ICANN, 2014). With such a massive network of stakeholders such as states, special interest groups, NGOs and powerful private industry players intermingled into the debate on IG, the status quo is sure to change. This topic represents one more example of a growing number of issues that no one sovereign entity can effectively manage and will require international cooperation and sharing of knowledge for real progress to be made. This paper investigates the guiding international theories of Realism and Liberalism as they relate to the State and their application to the historical developments, current status and likely future of IG.
The Internet may be the most dramatic achievement in history. Never before in has technology, especially something largely intangible to most people, superseded the control of States so quickly on an international level leaving them struggling to catch up. If not for their counterproductive efforts to suppress the internet many states may have entered into modernity at a much faster pace. To what extent should there be IG? This argument starts centuries before the internet, since any societal activity can be governed and this debate requires a theoretical application of Realism and Liberalism. Although a bold statement, I believe the internet threatens the relevance of political institutions and also the idea sovereignty. If states believe they exist in a state of anarchy, then their focus as an institution is power through military and geopolitics.