These policy principles underpin the work of InternetNZ and help ensure that our approach to Internet-related public and technical policy is transparent and predictable. Internally, the principles guide the development of policy positions and statements. Externally, they explain the basis of InternetNZ’s views to our stakeholders and to the general public.
InternetNZ policy principles
- The Internet should be open and uncaptureable.
- Internet markets should be competitive.
- Internet governance should be determined by open, multi-stakeholder processes.
- Laws and policies should work with the architecture of the Internet, not against it.
- Human rights should apply online.
- The Internet should be accessible by and inclusive of everyone.
- Technology changes quickly, so laws and policies should focus on activity.
- The Internet is nationally important infrastructure, so it should be protected.
Internally, the principles guide the development of policy positions and statements. Externally, they explain the basis of InternetNZ’s views to our stakeholders and to the general public.
The principles are high-level and broadly applicable to the diverse subject matter addressed by InternetNZ. They reflect the spirit of InternetNZ’s past work, relate to its present work and shall guide its future work.
Principles should be enduring, remaining relevant and applicable across environmental changes. They are open for review from time to time to ensure their continued suitability for InternetNZ. There may be occasions where some principles come into conflict with others. This will require consideration of their application in the specific circumstances under which they arise. In this regard, the goal of the principles, as a set, is to be maximally complementary.
In developing these principles, there was broad member consensus that their language should be consistent with that used in policy circles internationally. At the same time, the principles are unique to InternetNZ’s local environment, vision and history. Accordingly, the principles attempt to communicate the core beliefs of InternetNZ in language consistent with international policy language.
These principles have been tested and debated with InternetNZ members and their acceptability gained by consensus support. The InternetNZ Council approved these principles on 17 August 2012.
The principles in detail
1. The Internet should be open and uncaptureable.
Openness has played an important role in the history of the Internet, and continues to play an important role today. “Open”, in this context, has no single meaning. The word touches many Internet-related elements and philosophies. From the specific (e.g. open standards and open source software) to the abstract (e.g. freedom on the Net), "open" characterises the fundamental design and intent of the Internet. Openness, not closure, encourages competition, innovation, inclusion, accessibility and countless other socially and economically beneficial things. The Internet should be open for this reason.
The Internet should also be uncaptureable. If a single group established power over the Internet or a key part of it – if they captured it – then Internet users’ online experiences may be affected by that group’s decisions. Contrast this state of affairs with the ethos of collaborative standards-setting and the decentralised design that has been key to the Internet’s success. No single entity, be it a State or any organisation, commercial or otherwise, should be able to capture the Internet. The Internet is for everyone.
2. Internet markets should be competitive.
Should market conditions prevent or inappropriately constrain consumer choice or innovation, then introducing appropriate regulation to foster competition is necessary. Well-regulated competitive markets prevail over those dominated by monopolies, or concentrations of power that behave like monopolies. People should be able to get – and to give – Internet access without facing unreasonable barriers. New Zealanders should be able to choose from a broad range of Internet services, applications and products offered by companies of all sizes at competitive prices.
3. Internet governance should be determined by open, multi-stakeholder processes.
The multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance allows the whole of society to participate in fostering the development of the Internet. The multi-stakeholder process is democratic, open and transparent. It is enriched by the diversity of its participants, including the technical community, civil society, academia, government and the private sector. This model ensures that no one group captures the Internet and should therefore be preserved and promoted.
4. Laws and policies should work with the architecture of the Internet, not against it.
The Internet challenges the conventional pace of the justice system; harmful acts in the digital realm can be quick to injure, but relatively slow to redress. All the same, when law and policy do not incorporate traditional notions of justice and due process they run the risk of being unfair and unbalanced. When Internet-related law and policy fails to comprehend and account for how the Internet works, they risk threatening its operation. Internet-related law and policy should be mindful of the architecture of the Internet, complementing it rather than working against it.
5. Human rights should apply online.
Online and offline, people should be able to exercise their fundamental human rights, such as the right to privacy and the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Everyone should respect these fundamental rights in the online environment. Nation States especially have an obligation to see that these rights are protected regardless of whether they are exercised in an online forum or on the street.
6. The Internet should be accessible by and inclusive of everyone.
The Internet is an essential social and economic infrastructure and is inextricably linked with our daily lives. This is true for some more than others - some people may choose not to use the Internet, while others do not have that choice. Given the importance of the Internet, every New Zealander should be able to access it and use it. An available, affordable and accessible Internet will provide immeasurable societal and economic benefits, from increased connectivity to important government services, to better access to knowledge, to providing business owners the opportunity to engage a global consumer base.
The Internet and the services built on it should be inclusive of everyone. Internet policy should foster digital inclusion, not sharpen digital divides.
7. Technology changes quickly, so laws and policies should focus on activity.
The pace of technology outstrips the pace of the legislative process. The challenge for legislators is to balance their deliberative process, necessary to make good law, with the fast pace of technological advancement. This state of affairs favours principles-based law over technology-specific law.
When law targets a specific technology, it will, sooner or later, become obsolete. Technology-specific laws also risk impeding the development of that technology in general, foreclosing possibilities for future innovation. To conserve legislative resources and avoid punishing legal uses of technology, law should focus on activity, not technology. The Internet may be used for legal activities or illegal activities and technology can be used for both good and bad. Therefore law targeting activity on the Internet should be directed at that activity, not at the means by which the activity is conducted.
8. The Internet is a nationally important infrastructure, so it should be protected.
The Internet is important infrastructure for New Zealand. As government departments and agencies, businesses, and society rely on the Internet, a high degree of resilience and smooth operation are paramount. The public and private sectors should work together to ensure that it remains that way.