QuoteIn the physical world, I associate the dynamics of a natural ecosystem with two important concepts: first, the presence of some set of biological laws such as natural selection, that second, leads to a balance or equilibrium state so that even when there is a disturbance these natural operations and laws bring the ecosystem back to a equilibrium state (maybe different than before, but an equilibrium).
Applying this concept to the online ecosystem could lead us to accept the idea that the Internet is self-regulating and there is some natural order that will always emerge no matter how the system may be disturbed. From this concept some argue that policymakers should just leave the Internet alone.
In fact, "leaving the Internet alone" has been the nation’s Internet policy since the Internet was first commercialized in the mid-1990s. The primary government imperative then was just to get out of the way to encourage its growth. And the policy set forth in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was: "to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation."
This was the right policy for the United States in the early stages of the Internet, and the right message to send to the rest of the world. But that was then and this is now.
- If users do not trust that their credit card numbers and private information are safe on the Internet, they won’t use it.
- If content providers do not trust that their content will be protected, they will threaten to stop putting it online.
- If large enterprises don’t have confidence that their network will not be breached over the Internet, they will disconnect their network and limit access to business partners and customers.
- If foreign governments do not trust the Internet governance systems, they will threaten to balkanize the Domain Name System which will jeopardize the worldwide reach of the Internet.
- Child protection and Freedom of Expression: As more children go online, how do we ensure proper targeting of law enforcement resources against serious crime while remembering that most important line of defense against harmful content is the well- informed and engaged parent or teacher? Later this year, the Online Safety Technology Working Group, created by Congress and convened by NTIA, will issue a report on the state of the art in child protection strategies online.
- Cybersecurity: How do we meet the security challenge posed by the global Internet which will require increased law enforcement and private sector technology innovation yet respect citizen privacy and protect civil liberties. We’re participating in a Commerce Department cybersecurity initiative that will address these issues, particularly as they relate to improving the preparedness of industry for cyber attacks.
- Copyright protection: How do we protect against illegal piracy of copyrighted works and intellectual property on the Internet while preserving the rights of users to access lawful content? NTIA and our sister agency at the Department of Commerce, the US Patent and Trademark Office, are beginning a comprehensive consultation process that will help the Administration develop a forward-looking set of policies to address online copyright infringement in a balanced, Internet-savvy manner.
- Internet Governance: In our role administering the Federal government’s relationship with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), how do we ensure that ICANN serves the public interest and conducts its activities with the openness and transparency that the global Internet community demands? Last fall, NTIA and ICANN set forth a framework for technical coordination of the naming and numbering system and I am looking forward to soon participating in the first of the administrative reviews to ensure that these commitments are carried out in full.