The Policy Network on Internet Fragmentation aims to offer a systematic and comprehensive framework, complemented by case studies, that defines Internet fragmentation, its causes, and its potential effects and it aims to establish recommendations or codes of conduct that prevent fragmentation.
The PNIF proposal was born out of a community initiative launched by a multistakeholder coalition of civil society, business and technical community organizations in
2021 to raise awareness of the technical, policy, legal and regulatory measures and actions that pose a risk to the open, interconnected and interoperable Internet.
The objective of this policy network would be to:
- Offer a systematic and comprehensive framework to define Internet fragmentation, its intended and unintended causes, and its potential effects
- Collect and analyze case studies to fine-tune and complement this framework
- Establish shared principles, recommendations or codes of conduct that prevent fragmentation and preserve the open, interconnected and interoperable nature of the Internet
About the issue
In recent years, technical, legislative and policy developments have furthered the risk that the Internet fragments into siloed parts. These developments include bans or restrictions on international data flows, interference with free expression, privacy, and/or encryption; and Internet shutdowns. These developments pose a threat to the open, interconnected and interoperable Internet, along with its associated benefits to social and economic development, while also harming human rights. Internet fragmentation can take place at various segments and functions of the Internet, any of which can prevent an open, interconnected and interoperable Internet. Therefore, we propose a three-layered framework through which to analyze actions and measures that can contribute to fragmentation in order to gain a holistic view of the issue and identify potential solutions:
- Technical / backbone layer: whereby conditions in the underlying technical infrastructure impede the ability of systems to fully interoperate;
- Network / access layer: whereby conditions at the physical, network, transport layers prevent proper functioning of the Internet and/or hinder meaningful connectivity;
- Application / content layer: whereby policies and actions constrain or prevent certain uses of the Internet to create, distribute or access information.
The community engagement will continue to happen over a dedicated mailing list. All interested stakeholders are most welcome to subscribe through this link.