Thoughts on “governance” in light of the Net

The big news today is the court ruling out of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia invalidating the FCC “net neutrality” rules. The information-related aspects of that decision, and the FCC’s role, if any, in regulating the internet, provide ample opportunity for comment.  Consider the roads in your community, or the public library – do (should?) heavy users pay more based on their usage, or does everyone (even non-users) pay their “fair” share of the aggregate cost? If you’re Netflix, it matters.  Or if you only use the internet for email. Or AT&T. Or a shareholder of Netflix or AT&T.

That, however, is not my focus on the decision.  Rather, look at this through the governance lens.  Forget information for the moment and focus on who has the power to make decisions about who does what and when at what cost.  Is it the FCC, the US courts, the US Congress, the US President, the UN (Lord forfend!), or the loose community that has “governed” the internet since the early days?  What controls are there on whoever is doing “governance”?  What is “governance”? What laws get enacted, what policies get advanced, what regulations, processes and procedures get established, and what training and enforcement take place?  Is that “governance”?  Or is it “governing”?  And what impact does “culture” have?  Would extensive “governance” change the “culture” of the internet?  And the internet’s reach and impact?  For good and for bad? Is “governance” a process or a state of being? How do other governments view this issue?  Russia, China, Iran, Nigeria?  Does “governance” depend on who’s doing it, and to whom? Compare, for instance, “corporate governance.”

Just thinking.

“Court Toss Rules of Road For Internet,” Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2014 A1


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