Policy Principles – The ICT Framework

What is “Internet Governance? The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) raised questions about “Internet governance.” This term is often misunderstood. In a March 2004 paper prepared for the UN ICT Task Force, three leading Internet policy experts, including the Executive Director of GIPI, distinguish among three sets of issues, describing how each is “governed” by a mix of governmental and non-governmental arrangements: (1) ICT governance issues, which contain as a subset; (2) Internet governance issues, which contain as a subset: (3) Administration and coordination of Internet names and numbers. CDT discusses the role of ICANN in Internet Governance in a July 2004 paper, ICANN and Internet Governance: Getting Back to Basics.

Several prominent international bodies have developed principles for Internet policy. There is striking overlap among these recommendations. They provide the starting point for policy development:

  • G-8 Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society
    July 2000
    The heads of state of the Group of Eight major industrialized countries agreed on key principles to promote the development of the Internet and to maximize its social and economic benefits, producing a list of general recommendations such as: promote competition, protect intellectual property, etc.

  • Global Business Dialogue on Electronic Commerce (GBDe): Principles and Recommendations
    Developed from a business perspective, these principles include development of mechanisms to create consumer confidence, treatment of freedom of expression, and adoption of copyright laws under WIPO.
  • Open Internet Policy Principles
    Parliamentary Human Rights Foundation, November 1996
    Drafted from a human rights perspective, these principles cover access, market structure, rights and responsibilities of users, freedom of expression, criminal law enforcement, and communications privacy.
  • World Economic Forum
    Statement of Principles, “From the Global Digital Divide to the Global Digital Opportunity”
    Proposes policy actions and initiatives – submitted to the G-8, July 2000.

The Regulatory Framework for E-Commerce – International Legislative Practice May 2002

There are international models to draw upon for elements of an Internet regulatory framework. This GIPI memorandum offers an outline of key issues that comprise an e-commerce framework and points to the relevant international models, in seven areas: telecommunications liberalization, recognition of electronic documents (including their legality as contracts and evidence), consumer protection, electronic funds transfer and the use of credit and debit cards, dispute resolution, ISP liability, and domain names. Other issues – intellectual property, privacy, cybercrime – are discussed elsewhere on the GIPI site.

E-Commerce Framework

PowerPoint presentation by GIPI Manager Bob Horvitz, Nov. 2002, presenting an overview of telecom reform, e-document legislation, consumer protection and other issues, with reference to international models.

Internet growth – key learnings from India

Paper by Rishi Chawla, GIPI India, presented at the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on User Groups/Consumer Societies of the Telecommunication Sector, 22-23 November 2002, in Phuket, Thailand

Regulation and Internet Use in Developing Countries [pdf]

Using data from a unique new survey of telecommunications regulators and other sources to measure the effects of regulation in Internet development, finds regulation strongly correlated with lower Internet penetration and higher Internet access charges. Finds that countries that require formal regulatory approval for Internet service providers (ISPs) to begin operations have fewer Internet users and Internet hosts than countries that do not require such approval. Moreover, countries that regulate ISP final-user prices have higher Internet access prices than countries that do not have such regulations.

A Layered Model for Internet Policy

An excellent paper by by Kevin Werbach, Sept. 2000, presenting a way for telecom regulators to respond to the problems of media convergence on the digital “platform” of TCP/IP. Written with the US Federal Communications Commission in mind, it is even more relevant today to less developed countries, which are less limited by existing investments in infrastructure than the US is. It is particularly good on interconnection, which is a central issue in societies served by an abundance of diverse networks.

ICT Policy: A Beginner’s Handbook, by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Johannesburg (2003)

Intended for non-specialists in government and civil society. Contains four parts: an introduction on ICT policy; the Internet, markets and access; national ICT and Internet policy and regulation; specific issues in Internet policy and regulation (gender, intellectual property, freedom of expression and censorship, privacy and security, cybercrime and anti-terrorism legislation, surveillance).

GIPI is guided by the following principles and perspectives:

These principles are also available in Russian.

Is Internet Regulation Needed?

The first step in legal reform for the Internet is to ask: Does the current law — or the absence of law — hinder or promote development of the Internet?

  • Hippocratic oath – First, do no harm.
  • Legislation can hinder Internet development.
  • In countries where the Internet has flourished most, there is no comprehensive “Law on the Internet.”

Before Regulating the Internet —

Government officials, the Internet industry, and the public need to determine: what would be the purpose (and the effects) of new laws or regulations?

  • To give the government control or to limit arbitrary government power?
  • To preserve monopoly power or to promote competition?
  • To enhance user control over content and privacy or to diminish user control?
  • To preserve monopoly power or to promote competition?

To Regulate or Not to Regulate? That is the question!

  • Internet regulation must mix regulation and non-regulation.
  • In countries where it has flourished the most, the Internet is a relatively unregulated medium that operates over a regulated medium: the telephone network.

What Is Unregulated?

  • No new laws are required for Internet content.
  • Those who create the content should be responsible for it, not the ISPs that carry it.
  • In most cases, user empowerment should be preferred over content regulation: Users, parents and schools can choose from among a variety of filtering and blocking software to protect children from harmful content.

Unique Nature of the Internet

Internet policy must take into account the ways in which the Internet differs from TV and other mass media:

  • Global — hard for one government to control
  • Open standards, access
  • Decentralized — no gatekeepers
  • Abundant — low barriers to entry, no scarce spectrum
  • Inexpensive — everyone a publisher
  • User-controlled — e.g., encryption, filtering
  • Interactive

With These Principles in Mind —

One can ask — what legal framework is needed for the Internet to flourish.

Many of the legal principles favoring Internet development are principles of general application to business law and the field of telecommunications, and are not specific to the Internet.


  • Regulatory and legislative process should be transparent and open.
  • Citizens should have access to all laws, decrees, regulations and judicial rulings
    • including draft laws and regulations
    • in print and through the Internet.
  • No one should be subject to any rule that is not published.

An effective ICT/Internet strategy should identify —

  • Local barriers to Internet development.
  • Opportunities for reform.

Support for Entrepreneurship

  • Business laws and financial systems should allow start-ups to achieve legal status and pursue business without delay.
  • The law should reduce risk of arbitrary government action and provide certainty, while allowing flexibility.
  • Regulatory bodies should be independent – there should be a clear separation between the (telecomm) regulator and companies (carriers).
  • Local barriers to Internet development?
  • Opportunities for reform?

Telecomm Liberalization

Privatization: Internationally, telecomm policy favors privatization.

Competition: Competition can drive down prices, promote investment and spur the deployment of affordable services

International standard: full and fair competition in local exchange service, leased lines, long distance, and backbone; among wireline, wireless, and cable; and among ISPs.


  • Existing networks should be opened to competitors.
    • See EU directives on interconnection and unbundling of network infrastructure.
  • Non-discrimination: ISPs should have access to network facilities on same terms telecomm companies offer their own ISP affiliates.
  • Goods and services should be open to foreign competition; trade barriers should be low. See EU directives, WTO agreements.


  • Licensing requirements should be predictable and consistent and should not impede competition.
  • There is no need for licensing of ISPs.
    • Licensing should not be used as a means of restricting market entry.
    • The marketplace and ordinary business law are sufficient to protect consumers.
  • Local barriers to Internet development?
  • Opportunities for reform?

Technical Standards

  • Technical standards should not impede competition.
  • There is no need for individual licensing or approval of equipment.
  • Conformance to international standards, based on open standards, broad participation, and interoperability, will promote innovation, growth and expanded access.
  • Local barriers to Internet development?
  • Opportunities for reform?

Price Regulation – Affordability

  • Telephone pricing policies, especially per minute metering for local calls, may inhibit the growth of the Internet.
  • Flat rate pricing for local telephone calls can improve Internet affordability, as can flat rate pricing of Internet service.
  • Local barriers to Internet development?
  • Opportunities for reform?

Universal Service

  • The principle of universal service for basic telecom access supporting voice and data is an international norm.
  • Competitive pricing can lower prices and spur development, but should be balanced with protection for residential and rural customers.

Training and Public Access

  • The government education system has an indispensable role in producing:
    • Technicians knowledgeable in telephony, networking, and programming.
    • A broader population base that understandsthe Internet as a tool of commerce, government and human development.
  • Public access at libraries and other public points can boost awareness.

Local Language Content

  • Industry, governments and NGOs should support the creation of Web site content in local languages.
  • Support should be given to the development of standards for browsers and other software that displays local alphabets.

Internet/ICT Law

In addition to the foregoing basics, issues specific to ICT and the Internet must be addressed:

  • Intellectual property – Adequate protection for intellectual property so that content providers can earn a profit.
  • Taxation – Internet tax policy should neither penalize e-commerce not inhibit the offering of electronic services.
  • Digital contracts – Laws recognizing credit cards, cybercash and digital signatures
  • Consumer protection
  • Privacy protection – See OECD guidelines, EU privacy directive
  • Computer crime – Effective measures to deal with online fraud, hacking while preserving anonymity and limiting government monitoring


The World Dialogue on Regulation for Network EconomiesÊ- a project initiated by infoDev, the Global Information and Technologies Department of the World Bank. The first three WDR Discussion Papers are

  • Building the Regulatory Foundations for Growth in Network Economies, by William H. Melody – highlights some predominant characteristics of network economies and discusses their implications for information infrastructure rollout and “next generation regulation” in developing and developed countries.
  • Some Implications for Regulation of ICT and Media Convergence, by the WDR/LIRNE.NET research team at the Centre for Tele-Information,Technical University of Denmark – examines the relationships between technology and market developments and policy and regulatory initiatives.
  • Multisector Utility Regulation, by the WDR/LIRNE.NET research team at the Delft University of Technology, looks at the case for a multisector regulatory agency and the implications for the efficiency and effectiveness of regulation in driving information infrastructure rollout.