Debates about Internet governance have long embodied a tension between forces advocating for greater government oversight of the Internet and those advocating for a coordinating structure distributed across many actors — ranging from international organizations, governments, the private sector, civil society and new global institutions such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The government-centric approach can be thought of as multilateral oversight. The distributed governance approach captures how Internet governance has evolved historically and is usually called the multi-stakeholder governance model.
Tensions between multilateral oversight and private-sector-led multi-stakeholder oversight can be seen in many of the global policy controversies around the Internet, ranging from long-standing questions about how to transition US oversight of Internet names and numbers to debates about types of interconnection that arose at the World Conference on International Telecommunications convened in Dubai in 2012. Tensions between governments and the private sector are also evident in debates about encryption that mediate competing values in cyberspace, such as law enforcement and national security versus individual privacy and economic security.
This collection of research lays out some of these controversies, seeks to explain the “multi-stakeholder model” of Internet governance and makes recommendations about the types of governance innovations necessary to maintain both Internet freedom and Internet stability in the coming years.