A New Arrival in the IGF Family: the Dynamic Coalition on Network Neutrality

A New Arrival in the IGF Family: the Dynamic Coalition on Network Neutrality

The re-posting of this analysis is part of a cross-posting collaboration with MediaLaws: Law and Policy of the Media in a Comparative Perspective.

Last week, the Secretariat of the United Nations’ Internet Governance Forum approved the creation of the Dynamic Coalition on Network Neutrality.

Along with a conspicuous number of workshops, dynamic coalitions represent the structural elements of the IGF. Both elements have a heterogeneous multi-stakeholder composition and are aimed at the discussion of “public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance”, as the IGF mandate suggests. (Tunis Agenda, para. 72.a)

On the one hand, IGF workshops are unique events which allow various stakeholders to jointly analyse “hot topics” or to examine progress that such issues have undertaken since the previous IGF. On the other hand, dynamic coalitions are supposed to evolve over the years in a lively fashion and represent an exceptional opportunity to build an enduring and collaborative policy-shaping effort.

The long-term nature of dynamic coalitions is probably better-suited in order fulfil one of the most forgotten subparagraphs of the IGF mandate, according to which the forum shall “[i]dentify emerging issues, bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and, where appropriate, make recommendations”. (Tunis Agenda, para. 72.g)

Indeed, IGF workshops are extremely circumscribed events and although the content of their discussion is usually extremely valuable, their 90-minute length does not allow them to generate political momentum around the issues they raise and confines workshops’ debates to a conference-centre room and to a usually un-consulted report. Au contraire, dynamic-coalitions’ activities are supposed to be much broader than a 90-minute-long meeting, which is rather a moment to share the work that has been achieved over the year, discuss it and envisage the next steps.

The Interest of Creating the Network Neutrality Dynamic Coalition

“Network neutrality” is an appealing and multifaceted expression which encompasses several policy areas and may give rise to misinterpretations.

In view of the various approaches to this multi-faceted topic, it is important today to address the question of network neutrality through a multi-stakeholder approach. The purpose of the Network Neutrality Dynamic Coalition, therefore, is to provide a discussion arena aimed at allowing all interested stakeholders to jointly scrutinise the various nuances of the network-neutrality debate so as to ultimately contribute to the circulation of best practices and the elaboration of well-advised policies and regulations.

The idea of a Dynamic Coalition on Network Neutrality was presented during Multi-Stakeholders Dialogue on Network Neutrality & and Human Rights, organised under the auspices of the Council of Europe. Many of the stakeholders involved in the event have immediately manifested their interest in the initiative, stressing the need to clarify the network neutrality debate and highlighting the interest of a platform aimed at promoting the dialogue on the matter.

An Action Plan

The Dynamic Coalition on Network Neutrality will provide a common platform involving a large variety of stakeholders in a cooperative analysis of the network neutrality debate. Beyond the website, which will provide basic information on the work done by the dynamic coalition (e.g. publications, events, etc.), the official mailing list of the coalition will allow all members and interested individuals to discuss in an open and interactive fashion.

The goal of the Dynamic Coalition will be to inform and disseminate information on current trends and policy developments with regard to network neutrality. To this end, an annual report will be produced to provide an overview on Net Neutrality tendencies, policies and draft legislation. The first Annual Report will be dedicated to the relation between network neutrality and human rights and will encompass a selection of position papers that will be presented and discussed at the next IGF.

A call for contributions to the 1st Annual Report of Dynamic Coalition on Network Neutrality has been recently issued and all interested individuals and organisations are invited to participate.

Lastly, the Dynamic Coalition will attempt to elaborate a “model framework” on network neutrality, which can be deemed as consistent with international human-rights standards. Such a model framework will aim at providing guidance to national legislators and respond to the growing need for a network-neutrality regulation able to safeguard end-users’ human rights and fundamental freedoms while fostering fair competition and freedom to innovate.

By all means, every interested stakeholder is welcome to join this collaborative effort.

Luca Belli is a PhD candidate in Public Law at PRES Sorbonne University / Université Panthéon-Assas / CERSA; ISOC returning Ambassador to the United Nations Internet Governance Forum and member of the Steering Committee of www.medialaws.eu.