IGF 2020 WS #323 Emerging perspectives on the Internet Exchange Points

Time
Tuesday, 17th November, 2020 (09:00 UTC) - Tuesday, 17th November, 2020 (10:00 UTC)
Room
Room 3
About this Session
This session aims to provide an overview of the IXPs as vital elements of the Internet infrastructure to keep Internet connectivity in times as the Covid-19 crisis and extreme forms of government control over the Internet. With this purpose, this panel will provide an overview of the current context of the IXPs in the international realm and will put on the table the current issue of a lack of an international framework that protects the IXPs and the global Internet traffic they support.
Thematic Track

Organizer 1: Patricia Vargas, ISP Yale Law School
Organizer 2: Mónica María Trochez Arboleda, Nucleo TIC S.A.S.
Organizer 3: Olga Cavalli, Ministry Foreign Affairs Argentina
Organizer 4: Jan Rydzak, Ranking digital rights

Speaker 1: Patricia Vargas, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Jane Coffin, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Che-Hoo Cheng, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Moctar Yedaly, Intergovernmental Organization, African Group
Speaker 5: Ms. Nurani Nimpuno, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Additional Speakers

We added one speaker from the European region: Nurani Nimpuno. 

Moderator

Olga Cavalli, Government, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Online Moderator

Mónica María Trochez Arboleda, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Rapporteur

Jan Rydzak, Civil Society, WEOG

Format

Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Online duration reset to 60 minutes.
Policy Question(s)

The policy questions to be addressed in this panel are the following ones: What is the role of the IXPs in facilitating Internet connectivity? What are the essential aspects local legislations include when they regulate IXPs? What are the policies of selected democratic and non-democratic regimes regarding IXPs when considering a form of extreme government control, like an Internet kill switch? What is the role of IXPs during natural disasters?

The panelists will address the current international situation of the IXPs as we consider there is a lack of enough literature over these critical elements that support Internet traffic. Currently, most of the academic and non-academic work is based on the importance and role of the ISPs. IXPs have been analyzed mostly from a technical perspective, but not from a policy one. This project attempts to bring back into the debate the role and multiple advantages of the IXPs as a crucial element that supports the proper functioning of the end-to-end principle by keeping the integrity of the Internet data packets.

SDGs

GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Description:

IXPs are infrastructures that facilitate the transmission of Internet packets among Internet service providers (ISPs) and interconnect national and international networks. In this condition, IXPs are critical elements that support the proper functioning of the Internet protocol. This session covers a panel discussion from members of academia, the private sector, civil society organizations and governments. This panel provides an overview of the situation of the IXPs in three contexts: (1) their current status in the international realm: numbers and importance, (2) their importance when nation-states face an Internet kill switch or the shutdown of the entire Internet in selected democratic and non-democratic regimes and (3) significance of the role of the IXPs in contexts of natural disasters and pandemics like COVID-19 when the world observed an increase in the Internet traffic and nearly half of the human population remains under quarantine.

Expected Outcomes

Expected outcomes of the discussion will provide to the audience: (1) An overview of the current status quo of the IXPs infrastructure around the world, (2) An overview of some legislations from different types of regimes, democratic and non-democratic, over the IXPs, (3) A picture of the importance of the IXPs in two contexts: an Internet kill switch (or the shutdown of the entire Internet) and the COVID 19 pandemic in a context where the world observed a considerable amount in the Internet traffic.

This project is a 90-minute-panel group session. The onsite moderator will open the session with a 10-minute-introduction of the subject. After the introduction, each speaker will conduct a 10-minute-presentation from his/her own experience and area of work. At the end of the presentations, there will be 30 minutes for questions of the audience (onsite and online). We expect the speakers to present concrete case studies that address the most controversial aspects surrounding Internet exchange points.

Relevance to Internet Governance: 

For the most part, the private sector is the owner of the IXPs, although governments also fulfil this role to some extent. Regarding their ownership, IXPs serve to Internet users all over the world and are responsible for the quality of national and international traffic. This particular function calls for the conjunction of opinions among different stakeholders about their management and maintenance. The fact that IXPs facilitate multiple global connections means that they also have a direct impact on various policy issues and some structures of power. This situation was put under context during the COVID 19 crisis when the Internet keeps a critical role in allowing users (independently of their status) to communicate all over the world. Additionally, in extreme cases, when exists substantial control over the Internet infrastructure, the existence of IXPs also plays a critical role in keeping the Internet operational.

Relevance to Theme: 

IXPs congregate multiple national and international networks, enabling Internet connectivity in nation-states with extreme forms of government control over the Internet and in times where the COVID 19 kept half of the world population under quarantine. This means that IXPs are relevant from two perspectives, as stated in the thematic track: 

  1. Resilience: thanks to the IXPs the Internet traffic remains functional despite the high demand in times of the COVID 19 
  2. Stability: In nation-states where governments control (or consider controlling) the Internet infrastructure, IXPs are elements that contribute to keep the international Internet traffic and support the communication process despite any action executed to shut down the Internet.
Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool.

Additional Tools proposed: Due to the uncertainty of COVID 19, we organizers are aware that we may need the following tools: the official virtual platform of the IGF to conduct part of the panel debate online. Additionally, we expect to use the social networks that follow (in live sessions) the IGF. The most common ones are Facebook and YouTube and Twitter, to some extent. The online moderator in charge of this panel has previous experience by collecting the questions that come from different platforms at the same time and unifying them in a way that can be directed to the appropriate speaker. Moreover, the organizers intend that speakers answer all (or the majority) of the questions of the virtual audience. Previously to the IGF, organizers will publicize this panel (to be watched in these different platforms) in each one of the organizations where they work or are involved.

1. Key Policy Questions and related issues
What is the role of the IXPs in facilitating Internet connectivity?
What are the essential aspects local legislations include when they regulate IXPs?
What are the policies of democratic and non-democratic regimes regarding IXPs when considering forms of extreme government control?
2. Summary of Issues Discussed

Speakers agree on the following:

The importance of increasing IXPs, especially in the developing world, as the main drivers for connectivity and Internet service access. Agreement: there are more difficulties to build new IXPs in terms of equipment supply, especially in Africa. In other regions of the developing world, like Latin America, challenges come from the regulatory environment.

All competitors within the telecom market must agree to build and maintain IXPs that serve them and the population. Agreement: IXPs create resilience and are vital for connectivity, especially in crisis times like the current Covid-19 crisis.

Neutral data centers are required and that negotiation contracts should not impose extra costs for the developing world, where there are no enough IXPs or no IXPs at all

-More discussion is needed: consequences of damaging, not protecting/maintaining, and bad regulations over the IXPs. Specifically, what role they play when governments or other actors decide to act over the Internet infrastructure.

3. Key Takeaways

Speakers agree that the creation of IXPs leads to more connectivity, resilience, economic independence, and political autonomy. Yet, these goals don't happen automatically. IXPs can contribute to reaching these goals as long as they are built on agreements that include support, trust, knowledge, and sustainability.

Although IXPs are for the most part privately owned, big telecom corporations are not supposed to take advantage of their position in the market and avoid smaller companies or research centers to participate

During the COVID19 crisis, IXPs proved to be vital elements for the resilience of the Internet. Nevertheless, they lack legal protections from an international standpoint of view.

6. Final Speakers

Speaker 1: Patricia Vargas, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Speaker 2: Jane Coffin, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 3: Che-Hoo Cheng, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group

Speaker 4: Moctar Yedaly, Intergovernmental Organization, African Group

Speaker 5: Ms. Nurani Nimpuno, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

7. Reflection to Gender Issues

As Dr. Vargas observed, countries with fewer IXPs have a less resilient technical backbone, which is problematic both in normal times and times of crisis. The problems this creates are especially salient when the population is unevenly distributed across the country.

Low-resilience networks exacerbate the digital gender divide, which manifests itself differently across the world. Low-resilience infrastructures bring instability in the midst of political turmoil and network disruptions, especially when countries flip the Internet kill-switch; they also erect barriers to access to online education and other services that have proven vital during the pandemic.

8. Session Outputs

One of the most reliable sources in reporting the current number and status of the IXPs at a global level is Packet Clearing House: PCH - https://www.pch.net/.

The two companies worldwide builders of IXPs are the Duetscher Commercial Internet Exchange and the LINX, the London Internet Exchange.

The Internet Society is one of the most relevant sources for constant training and discussion to build and maintain IXPs.

9. Group Photo
IGF 2020 WS #323 Emerging perspectives on the Internet Exchange Points