Athina Fragkouli

Caught in the Middle: Regulatory Impact and our Mission as the RIPE NCC

Athina Fragkouli
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The increasing rate of conflicting regulatory developments across our service region has become a very real subject of concern for the RIPE NCC. In this article, Athina Fragkouli talks about the impact such developments have on our operations and the principles guiding the work being done to prepare for and mitigate potential challenges.


We are entering an era of conflicting regulations within our service region.

Over the past decade, we have observed a growing frequency of regulatory developments with the potential to impact our operations. In some cases, these developments represent deliberate efforts to protect or otherwise affect the local Internet infrastructure in some way. In others, the impact on our operations is merely an unintended consequence or side effect.

The RIPE NCC has always understood that governments will act to shape their environment and ensure diligent administration within their territories. This is why we have done our best to make ourselves available and offer technical knowledge and perspective where appropriate, so that these efforts remain compatible with the Internet’s infrastructure.

This regulatory trend is increasingly becoming a matter of concern. It has already started to interfere with our ability to provide the same services to all RIPE NCC members on an equal basis, which is a goal that is very important to us and has been highlighted by our Executive Board on multiple occasions [1].

Competing or incompatible regulatory frameworks might also impact the operation of the global Internet - which relies on the cross-border collaboration of all stakeholders, including technical operators and governments [2] - and as a consequence, might ultimately lead to fragmentation of the Internet.

We wish to remain true to our Mission [3] and we have decided to intensify our efforts to see it through. All RIPE NCC members should be able to access our services equally. We also believe that it is imperative for the future of our global Internet that the following unwavering principles remain as such:

  • The wider Internet governance system is essential to the stability of the global Internet and should not be undermined
  • The RIPE Database, along with the equivalent databases of the other RIRs, must remain the authoritative source to determine uniqueness of Internet number resources
  • All networks must be able to access Internet resources and related services on an equal basis, regardless of geography

With that in mind, we wish to communicate to our members and our colleagues in the RIPE community that we have been undertaking work on the following aspects:

  • Tracking regulatory developments and identifying potential scenarios that would impact our ability to provide services to our members as an RIR and/or impact the operations of the Internet
  • Planning for contingencies in line with the principles outlined above to mitigate potential impacts

We have shared our concerns and the details of this work with the other RIRs and we have started coordinating with them on this matter.

We will begin engaging with the RIPE community once we have made progress with this work.


Notes

1. Earlier references to these goals can be found here, here and here.

2. This model is described in the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society (usually referred to as the “Tunis Agenda”), in particular paragraphs 35 and 29:

"We reaffirm the principles enunciated in the Geneva phase of the WSIS, in December 2003, that the Internet has evolved into a global facility available to the public and its governance should constitute a core issue of the Information Society agenda. The international management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations. It should ensure an equitable distribution of resources, facilitate access for all and ensure a stable and secure functioning of the Internet, taking into account multilingualism.”

The Tunis Agenda, being one of the outcomes of the World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS), was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 (UNGA Res. 60/252.).

3. The RIPE NCC Mission reads as follows:

  • As an authority on unique Internet number resources, we enable our members to operate and develop the Internet.
  • As a neutral source of information and knowledge, we actively contribute to a stable and innovative Internet.
  • We are a trusted steward of the open, inclusive, collaborative Internet model, connecting people, communities and stakeholders.


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About the author

I am the Chief Legal Officer at the RIPE NCC, responsible for all legal aspects of the organisation.

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