IGF 2021 DCNN Device Neutrality and Interoperability for Internet Openness

Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (15:45 UTC) - Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (17:15 UTC)
Hall A3

Dynamic Coalition on Network Neutrality

Round Table - Circle - 90 Min


Regulation, competition and innovation: How could regulatory and self-regulatory frameworks help foster more competitive Internet-related markets, a larger diversity of business models, and more innovation? How to enable equitable access to data, marketplaces or infrastructures for fostering competition and innovation on the Internet?
Protecting consumer rights: What regulatory approaches are/could be effective in upholding consumer rights, offering adequate remedies for rights violations, and eliminating unfair and deceptive practices from the part of Internet companies?


This session will explore several Internet openness topics with a focus on technical and policy issues that are essential to guarantee that Internet remains open.

The session will provide a brief overview of the evolution of net neutrality issues around the world, and will focus on next-generation internet openness issues such as device neutrality and interoperability.

Device neutrality can be defined as the property that ensures users right of non-discrimination in the choice of services and apps they use, based on platform control by hardware companies (ARCEP 2018). Interoperability is the ability to transfer and render useful data and other information across systems, applications, or components, and is considered as a fundamental element of Internet openness. Both concepts are well known by telecoms policy specialists, are transversal issues of Internet openness, and are also becoming key elements of platform regulation. (See the Glossary of Platform Policy Terms https://www.intgovforum.org/filedepot_download/4905/2373 )

The session will also offer the occasion to present the DCNN Outcome Document, an Open Statement on Internet Openness, calling for the promotion of Net Neutrality, Interoperability and Device Neutrality. https://bit.ly/InternetOpennessIGF 


The session organizers will make us of a variety of platfomrs and social networks to enhance participation during the session.


Dr Luca Belli, FGV Law School, Brazil   

Walter Britto Gaspar, FGV Law School, Brazil


Ms Laure de La Raudière, French Telecommunications Regulator (ARCEP), France, (TBC)

Mr Frode Sorensen, Norwegian Communications Regulator (Nkom), Norway

Dr Kyung Sin (KS) Park Open Net Korea

Ms Smriti Parsheera, CyberBRICS Project, India

Dr Christopher Marsden, University of Sussex, United Kingdom

Ms Nathalia Foditsch, Alliance for Affordable Internet, Brazil

Dr Ian Brown, CyberBRICS Project, South Africa


Onsite Moderator

Dr Luca Belli, FGV Law School

Online Moderator

Walter Britto Gaspar


Walter Britto Gaspar



Targets: The session directly relates to SDG 9c “Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020” as it aims at exploring which kind of control can be exerted on the free flow of information, by unduly restricting communications within and among devices and platforms and what teaching from telecom policy can be learned to foster Internet openness.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

There is a great deal of work needed by regulators and stakeholders to cooperate and foster effective enforcement of policies aimed at promoting internet openness. Some of such policies are already in place in many countries (e.g. net neutrality laws) but their implementation is frequently very timid.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Effective and participatory implementation, involving users, is essential to guarantee Internet openness. Stakeholders should follow the recommendations on implementation stressed already 5 years ago in the Policy Statement on Net Neutrality, promoted by DCNN https://www.intgovforum.org/cms/documents/igf-meeting/igf-2016/833-dcnn…

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

The central role digital platforms play in economic relations and their potential impact in democratic processes and human rights require adequate regulation to optimize how society uses them. One important regulatory step is implementing platform interoperability - which has many facets, from data to protocols and legal systems. This potentially unlocks value in digital environments, strengthening competition and providing user control.

This session of the DCNN meeting highlighted the various aspects of internet openness that go beyond the usual debate on net neutrality. These include device neutrality and interoperability, which were the focus of the session due to their key role in a more open and multi-faceted debate about internet openness.

Classical net neutrality issues, such as non-discriminatory packet management, are necessary, albeit not sufficient to achieve the ideal of internet openness proposed. Increasingly, net neutrality issues take the fore alongside these other debates, revealing the need for a multi-layered approach to internet openness.

ARCEP, the French telecommunications regulator, has given substance to this in a recent study on Device Neutrality and their impact on consumers. Among their findings, some highlights are: (i) limitations in terms of consumer experiences; (ii) limitations in terms of application providers’ ability to offer services via marketplaces; and (iii) unequal implementation of web standards; among other barriers to competition and openness in the market that end up harming user experience and access to the internet as a whole. Some policy options to face these challenges would be provisions for more transparency for entry conditions in OS marketplaces and increased API transparency, as well as advocating for interoperability of various services.

In terms of interoperability, it is important to understand that its role as an enabler of an open internet is due to its potential to unravel lock-in and network effects and create connections where otherwise there would be barriers. The concept may be divided into two categories: (i) vertical interoperability, when an app can access various platforms and an user can interact with users from other platforms; and (ii) horizontal interoperability: provides inter-platform competition, enabling competition among different marketplaces. Both are necessary to promote internet openness.

In order to achieve this, regulators would need to require platforms characterized as “gatekeepers” to open up to competitors - whether by APIs, standard communication protocols like the WWW consortium etc. This would not be unheard of, as some countries have already instituted interoperability requirements in the case of open banking schemes, which allowed fintech companies to enter markets, increasing competition and giving consumers a genuine choice.

This amplification of choice is reflected in more options, for example, in terms of privacy choices and content moderation choices. Further social benefits of interoperability include promoting media pluralism and diversity, improved social infrastructure, reduced environmental impact of the online economy and the Internet of Things, and favoring digital sovereignty. This impact is made very clear by moments of crisis: in recent controversies over privacy policies of popular messaging apps, peoples whose internet packages include zero-rated connectivity for incumbent apps might feel powerless to question privacy practices and be incapable of swapping services due to potential internet costs.

Although these are recognized beneficial effects of interoperability and net neutrality which make up a more open internet as a whole, there are still many challenges and drawbacks in their implementation, including particular issues in countries where regulation of net neutrality is lax or uncertain.