Session Chair: Maria Minaricova (GÉANT)
"Internet Freedom is essential for Research and Education"
Presenter: Erik Huizer (CEO GÉANT)

Freedom is not something that is comes naturally. It is something one has to fight for, sometimes literally. Online this is no different. The almost unlimited freedom that the Internet seems to offer is under constant threat. We do have to fight to keep the Internet open, accessible and trustworthy. This is a prerequisite for researchers, students, scholars and teachers all over the world and NRENs have a responsibility in this.

The current Internet supports what Vint Cerf calls: permissionless Innovation. This innovation is organized in a multitude of ways depending on whether we look at infrastructure, services, devices or apps. The combination of opportunities in each of these allows for almost unlimited innovation freedom.

One of the good things that the Internet brings is to put the consumer in the driving seat. Whether it is the music industry or the scientific publishing industry, their old business models are under severe threat due to the Internet freedom of consumers to organise themselves and to explore alternative ways of doing business.

Still it is not just positive news on the Internet, with respect to freedom. That very freedom is under multiple threats. Commercial companies threaten it by invading our privacy. Criminals threaten it by stealing identities. Governments threaten it by limiting our access or by using it for spying on us. These threats affect how we (can) use the Internet.

Another threat is our own dependency on the Internet. If it is not working we are almost helpless as a society to keep on functioning. This may become worse as cybercriminals and security experts fight a never-ending arms race to either disrupt or save the Internet.

All these issues need to be taken seriously in order to preserve the freedom on the Internet. This requires that we re-invent Internet Governance on a global scale. The discussions on the new Internet governance have been accelerated by the Snowden revelations and the decision of the US Government to hand over the IANA contract.

It is important for NRENs to be aware of the Internet governance discussions and to be aware of the on-going process in this matter. NRENs should participate more in the relevant Internet Governance fora (such as IETF, IGF, ICANN) to assure that the interest of NRENs are well represented. This requires involvement in debates on safety, surveillance, privacy etc. Not issues that are top-of-mind for most NRENs. However a wrong outcome of those discussions could severely impact the effectiveness of NRENs globally.

This presentation is both an update on Internet Governance as well as a call to arms for NRENs, making a case for NRENs to be more aware and involved in Internet Governance.

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