Internet consolidation – opportunities and challenges – WS 01 2019
You are invited to join an open discussion on consolidation* of the Internet. This workshop allows for active participation and sharing your thoughts and recommendations for future study or actions on the topic 'Internet consolidation'. In the workshop consolidation will be discussed from four angles: technical, Competition, Access, future studies. Overall we will also try and identify positive or negative case examples resulting from consolidation.
Four questions relating to the four topics are in the process of being formulated. They will be shared in the Wiki as soon as possible
(*This workshop used to have two topics, Accountability and Consolidation. After internal debate it was decided to unmerge the two. Accountability is now flash session 5 (see there). The workshop is solely on consolidation.)
In the Internet economy there is an 'ever growing level of consolidation of markets, an increasing consolidation and horizontal and vertical integration of Internet activities and businesses, resulting in fewer opportunities for market entry and competition' (Internet Society). This can have negative implications for innovation and access but also on pricing and levels of access to information. The technical community of Internet engineers has flagged the topic as important for the coming years, as consolidation comes with key questions and necessary answers. Answers that have not been provided so far and need input from other stakeholders. This workshop discusses these questions and potential solutions, that involve a broad section of stakeholders.
The workshop will discuss and formulate ways forward concerning future study and/or discussions on consolidation of the Internet.
The workshop is an open discussion led by a moderator around a few questions. The questions are shown here, allowing you to prepare for the workshop. Your knowledge, opinion, expertise is highly welcome so we can determine together what next steps should be.
The agenda is roughly as follows.
1. Welcome by the moderator, Wout de Natris (2 min.)
2. Setting the scene, an introduction by Jari Arkko (IETF) and Carl Gahnberg (ISOC))15 min.).
3. Open discussion (Ca. 1 hour)
Depending on time the following questions will be asked to the room:
- Does consolidation depend only on business and market trends, or is it also affected by technology? - Can technological changes assist in driving Internet trends such as consolidation to a particular direction? - Do the effects of consolidation and centralization of services cause us to rethink some other issues in the Internet, e.g., what new security threats and vulnerabilities might have to be considered?
- In view of the growing role of (dominant) platforms in the digital economy, is there a need to adapt competition rules and/or regulation to respond to the new challenges that our societies are facing? - What are the means of the authorities to ensure that the platforms’ rules do not impede free, undistorted and vigorous competition or even to “break” the Internet? - Considering the various types of data and possible uses of data, what could be the best conditions to promote cooperation and data sharing between firms on a contractual basis?
- What can we learn from the net neutrality debates and access network competitive situations in terms of safeguarding broader societal objectives in the Internet ecosystem, such as, freedom of expression, access and innovation? - What is the influence of consolidation on European society? What are concrete examples of where consolidation is a benefit for Internet users and where it’s a disadvantage, in particular in Europe? - How can Europe manage a centralizing digital infrastructure that it increasingly depends upon? For example, should we develop and promote technical functions that “open up” networks and services so that users gain insight into and can control who processes their data?
- How we can observe this phenomenon. For instance, can we measure it, do we know when we have it or when we don’t, and are there criteria that would be helpful in assessing where we are? - What are the implications for multi-stakeholder governance models & future regulations as a result of the changing balance of power? e.g. 'Big tech' players write/decide the rules, regulations are only reactionary instead of anticipatory? - A close analysis of the platforms, the ecosystems they create and control, where they may even become gatekeepers, with large information and power asymmetries, needs to be done for better understanding of the impacts on the market. - What kinds of things could ISOC, standards organizations such as the IETF, or the academia do in this area?
4. All through the session we are on the lookout for current examples, good or bad. Feel free to share them all through the workshop.
5. Formulation of outcomes and recommendations that will make up part of the The Hague messages (10 min).
Competition policy for the digital era, by Jacques Cremer, YA de Montjoye, Heike Schweitzer
Unlocking digital competition: Report of the Digital competition expert panel (March 2019):
- Wout de Natris, De Natris Consult
Organising Team (Org Team) List them here as they sign up.
- Giorgi Cherkezishvili
- Chivintar Amenty, YouthDIG 2019
- Jari Arkko, Internet Engineering Task Force
- Evelyn Austin
- Zoey Barthelemy
- Amali De Silva-Mitchell
- Cristian Hesselman, SIDN
- David Korteweg, Bits of Freedom
- Charalampos Kyritsis, YouthDIG Organiser
- Marie-Noemie Marques, Orange
- Kristina Olausson, ETNO - European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association
- Marco Hogewoning, RIPE NCC
- Carl Gahnberg, Internet Society
- Adam Peake, ICANN
- Clement Perarnaud, Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona
- Jari Arkko, Internet Engineering Task Force
- Carl Gahnberg, Internet Society
- Wout de Natris, (De Natris Consult)
Trained remote moderators will be assigned on the spot by the EuroDIG secretariat to each session.
- Clement Perarnaud, Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona, Geneva Internet Platform
The Reporter takes notes during the session and formulates 3 (max. 5) bullet points at the end of each session that:
- are summarised on a slide and presented to the audience at the end of each session
- relate to the particular session and to European Internet governance policy
- are forward looking and propose goals and activities that can be initiated after EuroDIG (recommendations)
- are in (rough) consensus with the audience
Current discussion, conference calls, schedules and minutes
See the discussion tab on the upper left side of this page. Please use this page to publish:
- dates for virtual meetings or coordination calls
- short summary of calls or email exchange
Please be as open and transparent as possible in order to allow others to get involved and contact you. Use the wiki not only as the place to publish results but also to summarize the discussion process.
The preparations are closed. The opening slides will be shared.
- There is a growing consensus on the existence of patterns of Internet consolidation in the various sectors of the digital economy. The fact that a handful of platforms facilitate most online activities has societal consequences. Though they provide a myriad of opportunities, they also tend to mobilise US-based values and norms, and thus fail to adapt to individuals’ specific needs globally.
- Competition rules need not only to be enforced, but also adapted to the challenges of the new digital environment. Rules need to be updated in order to better monitor platforms’ market power and acquisition strategies. States should address the issue of the responsibility of these players, and ensure the same level playing field for all actors.
- Consolidation results from market trends, but it is also affected by the nature of the technologies. Centralisation of services creates new security threats and vulnerabilities. At the technical level, industry actors should increase the interoperability of their interfaces, encourage greater collaboration between small players, as well as ensure stronger security measures (end-to-end encryption and data minimisation).
- The concentration of market power needs to be better understood. The root causes of Internet consolidation, as well as ways to measure its scale, need further study. Such research could feed into policies supporting models of co-operative platform economy. However, regulatory responses must not interfere with the Internet's underlying principles.
Find an independent report of the session from the Geneva Internet Platform Digital Watch Observatory at https://dig.watch/sessions/internet-consolidation-opportunities-and-challenges.
Full report by session organizers
published on 29 September 2019
Internet consolidation at EuroDIG 2019: Questions in need of an answer
At EuroDIG 2019 a workshop was organised around the topic of consolidation on the Internet. It was organised around four angles: technique, competition, society and human rights and; future research. One thing became extremely clear: no one contested that consolidation is taking place nor that this already has and will have an impact on the Internet and consecutively on society. There also was consensus that this topic is not going away, that addressing it is urgent and more study/research and interaction between stakeholders is necessary. If anything, the workshop led to more questions being asked than answers given, which is telling in itself.
What is consolidation?
Consolidation, in this specific context, is the process by which Internet activities and businesses get increasingly integrated, both vertically and horizontally or more simply put: where many of the same suddenly becomes fewer of the same. Another term often heard in this context is centralisation. This term is used when users have to go through one central point, e.g. to use a specific service or access a specific database. The two terms are not interchangeable.
A study by the Internet Society shows that consolidation takes place at different levels of the Internet. Applications, access provision, service infrastructure are mentioned, but beyond that deep dependencies are created e.g. through total service environments.
Potential consequences of consolidation
In the Internet governance sphere the topic of consolidation was raised by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). It flagged the topic as important, something other stakeholders needed to learn more about. Jari Arkko presented on the topic at an IGF workshop in Paris, November 2018. The outcome led to a follow up workshop at EuroDIG dedicated fully to the topic.
In short, it was explained, the Internet works because all involved, “the many to many”, follow universal, mandatory and voluntary open source rules and procedures, so called Internet standards. Now that the many become less and less, it changes the Internet and Internet governance procedures. When one or a few organisations control large parts of the Internet, they also come to control access to the Internet, to data, determine success or failure of innovative products, privacy, free speech, etc. This leads to important questions societies need to address. Many of these major questions were asked during the workshop, fundamental questions that in part go right into the sort of society we all want to live in.
Already there are companies at the service level, in online retail, social media, search engines, DNS queries, etc. so big that they hold large percentages of the market and dominate at a regional and even global level. This comes with a large economic power, political influence, the (potential) stifling or co-opting of innovation, etc. Competition rules are looked at to establish fair play and a level playing field, but do they?
Although there was no explicit consensus in the room, looking at the discussion with an helicopter view shows that the process of consolidation leads to feelings of discomfort and unease from all sides. Whether people have a background in business, human rights, access to data and services, etc., they all have questions in need of an answer towards both actions in the present as the outcome in the future. Academia aside, they all look to others, e.g. governments, competition authorities and policymakers for action and to provide answers.
Potential next steps
An important remark at the session was the following: We already have competition laws, so why would we need new ones? There was no direct answer to this question, yet is important to follow up on. It was pointed out e.g that there is a need to look at companies and their strategies in different ways. Market power could also be measured in (the availability of) access to data and not just in traditional market shares or by looking differently at overall strategies of companies in the case of mergers or acquisitions. There is a need for a debate whether current, mostly national. competition law is sufficient within a global, Internet environment.
Many in the room were alerted to the fact that the Dutch competition authority (ACM) had concluded a study into market power of Apple’s app store and concluded that a formal investigation was called for.
From the technical community came the question: ”What do you want us to do”? Several possible future technical measures and solutions were suggested. E.g. to create better functioning interfaces that allow access to systems or opening up social media systems. There came no concrete answer from the non-technical community, except the conclusion that consolidation is a non-technical topic. The people responding stated that consolidation is an economic/competition law issue, so regulatory. There seems to remains one obvious role for technicians: flagging and explaining, but let’s not conclude yet whether there is no role, as the technical community sees a potential role for itself. E.g. in assisting smaller companies to collaborate in a better way. The value of these measures have to become clear.
Another point made in this context was the need for net neutrality as this creates a situation of equal access for all. Another topic for future debate was identified.
Interaction between stakeholders
Overall there was one major development compared to Paris in November 2018. It became clear that there’s a need to get to know each other, as some stakeholders were not familiar with each other, let alone with the work going on within their respective silo’s. If anything, this was the step forward set between the session in Paris and the work leading up to the workshop in The Hague. The sharing of knowledge could lead to new actions within respective silo’s. Whether by taking measures at the technical level, as information that authorities need to build cases on or as suggestions for using current policies or to create new ones. It was suggested to look into these options.
The good, the bad and the absent
Many people raised concerns, yet it proved hard to provide concrete, negative examples coming out of consolidation. “I cannot run my own private mail server anymore”, was the most concrete one. A conclusion that can be drawn is that it seems that at this point in time those actively involved have grave concerns, because market power has come to rest in too few hands. A situation that may come with potential negative effects (soon). Attention was drawn to the fact that not all stakeholders seem aware of the current developments and what they (may come to) mean to their respective positions and interests. On the other hand, ISOC’s study shows the advantages of consolidation in e.g. cloud services and the global reach they provide even the smallest companies, although they come or may come soon with a vendor lock in, as it becomes impossible to switch to another provider (with ease).
So what are next steps? The workshop made clear that doors to other silo’s need to be opened. Knowledge needs to be exchanged and organisations can assist each other in developing answers to questions that are in need of an answer. Coordination between different stakeholders could be set up and there is a strong need to provide convincing examples whether consolidation is a good and/or a bad development. Finally, missing stakeholders need to be actively invited to these meetings.
This workshop contributed in a meaningful way to the debate on consolidation. It provided enlightenment to those involved, despite the fact that many questions remained in place. Fact is, many were raised for the first time with other stakeholders present. Questions that are in need of an answer that will take multiple stakeholders participating in the formulation of those answers. This starts with sharing experience and knowledge among each other. Conditions were created at EuroDIG in The Hague to do so.
Wout de Natris
Workshop focal point consolidation on behalf of SIDN
De Natris Consult
What remains is a list of questions in search of answer and potential action points to start working on:
- A need to identify and understand the working of each layer of the Internet within this context
- A need to identify and understand the current situation in each layer of the Internet
- Establish the link between consolidation and net neutrality
- Does net neutrality also need to take into account free speech and innovation?
- Identify how each stakeholder community can contribute to answering identified questions
- Identify current and potential actions within and among stakeholder communities
- Establish how contributions from other stakeholders can assist (the actions of) others
- Do “classic” competition laws work for the Internet or is this a truly new environment?
- “The people” do not seem to worry. Should they? And if so, how do we tell them?
- What can (the strategy behind) mergers and acquisitions tell us about consolidation?
- Is there a need for standardisation in regulatory reporting to truly make comparisons or conclusions at the global level?
- Are security threats limited or rising because of consolidation?
- In what way can enabling smaller players from a technical point of view become an alternative to consolidation?
- How can consolidation be measured and quantified?
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>> WOUT DE NATRIS: So. Good afternoon, as it is just past the hour, I think I would like to start this session. As this is going to be a very interactive session, why don't we all move up a little bit closer and so that we can see each other in the eye a little bit more. So, I invite you to come and sit here and we'll see what happens from there. Welcome to the workshop on internet consolidation ‑ opportunities and challenges. Just let me highlight very shortly what we intend to do in this session. We first have an introduction on the topic, you can see a few slides coming by and that introduction will be presented by Jari Arkko and Carl Gahnberg. They will introduce themselves, I'm sure, just before they start the session. From there, we're going to walk through four different topics which will be very briefly introduced by the person or team who drove that part of the discussion. It will be on technical implications, competition, on the social implications and of future research into internet consolidation.
All through the session will we be on the lookout for examples, good or bad, of n internet consolidation and because this is going to be an interactive session, we're going to ask you to respond, to bring your examples, ask your questions to the experts, and share your experiences and knowledge with us. Because the idea is that we do not just have a little results on the website of EuroDIG when we conclude this session but try to come up with actual action points and actual recommendations for specific stakeholder communities so that we can translate this into future studies, into future actions or future standards, perhaps, even, who knows?
With that, is the future. At the end of the session, our rapporteur, Clement will lead us through everything he heard here and summarize some key messages for us. To introduce myself, finally, my name is Wout De Natris, I have the pleasure of being your moderator b this afternoon. With that, I give the floor to Carl, who will lead us through the first part of the conversation. Carl.
>> CARL GAHNBERG: Thank you very much. My name is Carl Gahnberg. I work as a policy adviser with the Internet Society. Together with Jari I'm going to try to kick off this discussion this afternoon with a relatively quick conversation about this topic of consolidation, trying to create a somewhat shared understanding about what we mean by it, some of the trends we've been seeing in regards to this phenomenon and some of the considerations and questions that we at ISOC have raised and also hear a little bit from yarry the considerations and questions that he has observed. And then the idea is to invite and share with the room and hopefully we have a consideration around this topic.
But, it's useful to kind of start off the session with blunt ply putting on the screen what we mean by internet consolidation and trying to define it as best we can to hopefully create a shared understanding of what we're talking about. So, what you see here is actually taken from one of Jari's texts, an internet draft they're working on where the phenomenon of internet consolidation can be described as that process of increasing control over internet infrastructure and services by small service organizations of
That is sort of the common denominator of what we will be discussing here today. But, it's important to consider that that phenomenon can be approached from multiple perspectives so some of you might have a legal background and be approaching this from instinct, policy, that angle. Some of you might be coming from cybersecurity. Your intern comes from software monocultures, the instinct on reliability. Others, if you perhaps run a start‑up, your concern might be coming from concerns around interoperability or your ability to innovate or sort of pursue economic opportunities online. And then the broader public, the broader society might be approaching this topic from an angle of a distribution of power or a shift of distribution of power where some private companies are seemingly gaining an increased power vis a vis public institutions, for example.
So, you can approach this topic from multiple angles and that is exactly what we're intending to do here today. But, the common denominator for all of that is this phenomenon of internet consolidation of a small set of organization having increasing control over internet and infrastructures. So, given the fact that you can approach this topic and you might sort of associate it and have different connotations related to consolidation and also approach it with your own considerations, it's kind of useful to think about consolidation as fundamentally about a pattern. A pattern where many of the same suddenly becomes fewer of the same. That is sort of the essence of the pattern that we're thinking about and it's useful to think about it as a pattern, also to compare it to other concepts that can also be described as patterns like concentration, for example, where you don't have a reduction in the number of dots here but rather they're sort of focused on a location. So, that's one way of thinking about the concepts of consolidation versus consultation and Jari is going to talk a little bit about centralization as well.
So, what are the trends of consolidation? Well, at the InterSociety we started looking at this fen knowledge last year and doing some work in 2018 that nominated into a report we published earlier this year which we call the Global Internet Report 2019.
The overarching question guarding our research was, are there consolidation trends in internet economy and if so, how will consolidation impact the internet's use? So, that was the angle we took on this trend of consolidation. So, what we did was try to look at a bird's eye view. For awareness, we defined internet economy as those internet activity that's either support internet, for example, an ISP or an economic activity that is fundamentally dependent on the internet such as a streaming service, for example what we did is took this bird's eye view, looked at the trends we can see and then we tried to explain what we think are important considerations in regards to those trends. And then also try to think about what that means, is there something, some actions we might want to take, recommendations. But, what the main outcome of that report was that we needed to learn more.
And that there's a need for future and further research on this topic so that's what we're doing this year. That's part of the reason why we're having these type of consultations to learn more from other stakeholders and engage in discussion. But, to give you the sum of the trends that we saw. What we did was took the internet economy and then broke it down into three domains to try to make it more manageable for us when we're looking at it but also more digestible for the reader. So, we separate between what you see here on the left, internet applications, that you can think about those businesses that are dependent on using the internet to deliver their service. So, it would be, for example, search business. It would be online advertisement. Social networking. Or online retail, for example.
And I think to no great surprise, we saw those trends of consolidation in this space where, of course, you have a few dominant players in some of those key areas. What we're raising this action also is that a lot of their success or dominance, depending on how you look at it, is fundamentally connected to this logic of platforms and the fact that they're spurring network effects which in turn allows them to branch out into other markets. So, for example, if you think about Facebook, it's more than just a social network.
They also offer, for example, consumer to consumer marketplace which can be seen as competing with e‑bay, for example. Access provision is what we struggled the most with given that those markets are highly local but in this section, we tried to point to what we think are sort of important factors driving the expansion of large companies in access provision.
So, of course, market maturity plays a big role but also regulatory issues that might be favoring large companies. Other issues like spectrum that might be favoring an incumbent but overall that section was pretty hard for us to describe given that you might have very stark regional or even national local differences. The service infrastructure here, the third domain, essentially encompasses those businesses that help the internet coming into being and for people to use the internet and deploy services so it includes things like Cloud computing, DNS services, transit, content delivery networks. And again, what we saw when we looked at those markets were also these trends of consolidation where you have a small set of organizations essentially having quite significant market shares in all of those markets. But, what we were interested in was to try to take this as the sort of jumping off point and try to think a little bit both toward the future and some important considerations into this trend essentially trying to extrapolate a little bit.
So, in this report, we describe what we think is five key considerations. So, one of them, for example, up to the top left here, total service environments describes a trend where U.S. user would essentially be facing a one stop shop when you're online where you can spend a very productive day just staying within one service provider's ecosystem. But, similarly, also, if you're a small or medium business, you can go to, for example, a public Cloud provider that will give you access and capabilities that you can deploy at a global scale that wasn't even available for some of the largest companies in the world just five, ten years ago. So, it offers incredible opportunities, but it also raises the question, if this trend toward these total service environments inevitable.
The key question here is really, would we be facing a future where sort of collaboration takes a backseat and we live in a reality where we have sort of benevolent rule makers that we all need to just relate to and this notion of collaboration is gone, basically.
Both where you see a network of ISPs but also a proliferation of constant delivery networks and also where you have constant providers deploying their own global infrastructure, for example, submarine structures to exchange data between global infrastructures. And the question here is really fundamentally would the general purpose infrastructure take a backseat to the specialized networks. Is the internet going to be a thing of the past as we're sort of moving along a trend liking this?
Deep dependencies, as the question indicates, it's kind of using the analogy of, too big to fail, in the sense that, are there services out there that would effectively, if they were to have a service failure create sort of cascading effects up the stack for other technologies or for other businesses built on top of that. And it raises the question from what we at the Internet Society think is a sort of important feature of the internet, the notion that it doesn't have any permanent favorites. Could this effectively create permanent favorites where you have a dependency on a few large actors.
And then the final one here, response to consolidation. We look at how other stakeholder groups might be approaching this topic but also, importantly, how governments might try to address these concerns through regulation or competition policy. And sort of the essence of that problem is, if you think about the internet, it's sort of premised on voluntary rules. For example, open standards is one of the critical features of it. But, what happens, then, if you have mandatory rules being imposed on that network. Would they come in conflict with those volunteer rules or could they somehow limit the utility of the network as a whole.
So, those were some of the questions we came up with when we were looking at this. Oh, it comes back. Okay. So that triggered us to do further research this year along with a set of questions and I think in general it provokes questions from other stakeholders as well and I'm going to tee over to Jari to talk a little bit about his perspective.
>> JARI ARKKO: Thank you. Right, so, my name is Jari Arkko. I'm with research. To talk about the techy aspect of this consolidation of internet services. That's a topic I actually worry about quite a bit. So, what can I do, what can you do. And I approach it also from the point of view, like, where do I work and part of my history is doing a lot of internet standards at IETF. Currently a member of the internet tracking board, supposed to be track things like internet trends and how they affect the architecture. So, here's a trend that we're observing in the world and what can we do about it. Well, obviously, we do need to understand it, we do need to talk about it and we need to talk about it not just in our little corner with the techies or standardizers or vendor doing particular things but also among a bigger crowd like here with people having different backgrounds from Civil Society and technology and economics and so forth.
And just getting to the actual topic then, I think, I have, and I think most of you have also had this view of the internet as the ultimate decentralized system that is sort of equal opportunity for all, everybody can play, everybody can reach the global marketplace, for instance, or global users, whether they're small or large. The interfaces are open for things that you want to build and so on.
And that's true. But, at the same time, I think recently, we also witnessed a situation where on top of this interoperable open global equal opportunity platform, people are building their own closed applications, for instance. Or closed universes of things that are perhaps in some sense, less open because they are owned by the particular application provider and they get to set the rules for that particular application.
And many of us spend a big part of our day with some of these systems. So, the question is, you know, should we be worry bad that or not? And some of the reasons for these things happening, first of all, the ability, the internet is, has this permissionless innovation capability that you can build anything on top of it and you don't have to ask anybody's permission. That is essentially allowing anybody to build these things, the ecosystems on top of the open internet platform and free to choose which way they want to make the rules inside those new ecosystems. And some of them are relatively closed.
Of course, in a maturing market, you have economic striving things like economic subscale, for instance, and that's a natural progression on any industry. That's not anything harmful. And also network effects we talked about earlier.
There's also some technical things like speed of light or prevention that makes it easier for large entities to provide services whereas smaller entity, only exist in one place, very difficult to provide low latency for everybody on the planet, for instance. I did want to drill down a little bit more object terminology that Carl introduced. Consolidation we already talked about. That, in my mind, is sort of a control or ownership issue that this entity owns a large share of users or controls, particular domain in some fashion. There's an equal and technical term. You can have a situation where you have a distributed architecture where everybody can discuss with everybody, or you can have a more centralized architecture where you have to go through a central point where you have a database the a the central location.
And I think we're seeing examples of both in today's internet. Some examples where this happens. Email is sort of an old example, of course, and it's, again, the ultimate, distributed, everybody can play, example. In recent times, what we're seeing is that a fair number of people actually are no longer deploying email services by themselves but are letting others handle that on their behalf. And that's just regular economics and makes good sense. Don't have to do everything by yourself. Somebody else can specialize in that. But, we've also seen another phenomenon where it's getting difficult for me, for instance, to run my own services. I mean, I can set up the servers and do everything correctly but sometimes I'm on the wrong side of the black list or the white list and my troubles don't concern anybody because I'm tiny. Whereas, you know, if some email a administrator would block GMail, their users would let them know very quickly that that's wrong. So, it's difficult for me to play anymore in this space.
DNS query services, another recent example in this discussion, actually. This is like in the past we had all the different ISP networks around the world, maybe 10 million of them, had their local DNS services and if you were to query your name, you would get an answer from the local server. Due to the example of these requested end type solutions like Google's 8888 and others and some new technology and browser support for things, we're moving more towards a world where people are asking from a central location or central address or consolidated service for this, let's say the Google service, as an example.
And that's actually great for many reasons. You can bypass local blocking. Good. You can deploy secure protocols faster. Great. But, it's also bad in some other ways. So, now, you had like these 10 million different things around the world. It was very difficult for any single government or entity to get to all of them but you put it at two or three companies in the world and suddenly, you created a huge, very attractive data store for everybody's internet behavior can be tracked this way and I don't think that's actually a good idea.
So, what can we could technically? Obviously, this is a topic that's very broad. It has policy and legal and competition and society and spurring new business angles. But, it can also have technical angles. Like, could we do something? I'll just give you three examples. The first one is interoperability. So, I think we've observed lately that the innovation is moving up in the stack.
That we already have like connectivity through the internet. And most of the innovation happens in the different applications. But, as I said earlier, sometimes these applications are pretty closed in their way. So, they don't necessarily have interfaces internally for others to add something to it or for instance to provide alternatives and maybe that's a thing that we should be doing more. Open up some interfaces.
Another example is collaboration. Carl was talking about this a little bit. Could we help the small entities work together as opposed to having to do something always through a large entity? And the third example is, security related. Most of the internet and technology solutions to be built today is about communication security. So, the model is that we protect against the evil outsider. Like, the guy outside the tunnel. We want to prevent him or her from getting through the tunnel and seeing the traffic and modifying it. And that's great. We made huge progress in that space in the last five or ten years. That's really good. But, at the same time, what remains and now we're sort of more aware of that, also, that the other entity at the end of the tunnel, as your browser communities with an application, the server somewhere. Do you trust the application server? Do you trust your social media network provider not to sell your information or leak your information or convince you to vote for somebody.
You probably shouldn't be trusting them as much as you do. So, I think the security picture is moving. Now, we sort of handle one issue. Now, we have to focus our attention on something else. We can do things. We can minimize data that we send. We can have better browsers. If the browsers are working on the user's behalf. Firefox recently announced the ability to prevent the tracking they have by default, which is great. We can connect communications end‑to‑end. So, there are some things, at least, that we can do. Obviously, I'm talking in the general sense here rand I have just a couple examples but hopefully during the session we can come up with more.
So, coming to the end, we have a bunch of open questions. I won't go through these here. I mean, basically, just a question of, how do we, do we understand the situation and what can we do as internet organizations or individuals or societies or companies to help it? And what are the consequences? Do we understand them well enough and then the, what can we do as a technology provider to address the situation, mitigate some fashion. So, that's all I have for now. And Wout, I think you're going to continue.
>> WOUT DE NATRIS: Yes. Thank you, Jari. Thank you, Carl, for this excellent introduction. Except for the very intriguing picture we see, we also have four questions. What would you like to hear from this room, actually? What is the question you would like to address first, Jari?
>> JARI ARKKO: Yeah, so, from my perspective, of course, the technology question is the important one. I already talked about it a little bit. I think the interesting bit for discussion here might be like, what specifically could we do? Like, do you agree that there's hope in some of the technical things for us to do? Do you see a need in your lives or the applications that you use to do something different in a technical sense. Do you see something in the marketplace where additional standardized interfaces would help competitions, for instance, or would provide more choice is this I think that's the first discussion area.
>> WOUT DE NATRIS: Thank you. Who would like to respond first? Marco? Or you're just waving? And for the record, please state your name and affiliation.
>> MARCO HOGEWONING: Of course, Marco Hogewoning at RIPE NCC. Yes, for full disclosure, Jari and I know each other. We've been working on the standardization for quite a while. More or less would also like to add a question in the sense and maybe Jari you can jump in there is, on one end, there needs to be competition. But on the other, the internet compatibility so there is eventually a clear winner and that's also, I think, a form of consolidation. I think in the end if we hone in on that one protocol, that is a potential driver for consolidation, maybe. And to another example, and that's actually where we would like to see your opinion on this. Large tech companies bringing proprietary protocols back to the open standardization, which is somewhat controversial topic if you, for instance, take Quick. Is that good for consolidation or actually working against it?
If large tech players say, okay, hears my technology and I open it up to the rest of the world for them to use. Because on the one end, yes, we're buying into their technology but it is open to other people to make users. I would love to hear your and other people's views on that.
>> Yeah, that's a great question. I think there's actually two different types of sort of winning. One is, does your technology win? This particular protocol gets standardized and stamped in approval. Fortunately, we're not really like running out of technical proposals and standards in the world. There's plenty for every purpose so I don't think that's a ‑‑ I mean, in some case, it can be an issue also. But, mostly, I don't think it's a huge issue. I think the bigger issue, which, and that's really the answer to your second question is that I would like to be in a situation where different players can work with a large tech company that has come up with some type of technology and can implement their own things and talk to interfaces in that tech company and interface to the tech company and interface between themselves with this new technology. That's a desirable state of affairs. Not something to be afraid of.
So, I think it's actually great that people, like, most results from IETF are actually, some company made something or some guy made something and then later brought it to IETF and IETF improved it over several generations and maybe ten years later, it's actually working well. So, I think that's a good motto for standardization.
I would like to see more of that and the question is more like, you know, in cases where the large tech companies did not bring us a standard or open up an interface, that would be more troublesome. There's also distinction between, is the standard open and you can actually implement your side of it versus, can you actually connect? There's also examples, Ted Hardy was talking about the instant messaging system in a recent workshop and he made the point that like, there was a lot of work on different kinds of standards for instant messaging and you know, the starts actually succeeded in the sense of, they were implemented, are still implemented and widely used but the actual ability of my instant messaging system to connect to yours is very troubling today, nonexistent. And that's for technical and policy reasons because I'm big enough, I don't want to grow my thing and I don't want to have anything do with yours. And what can we do about that? That might be a bigger techy question.
>> Is that actually one of the main points, Jari, that the big tech companies set up their own standards and don't both about the rest anymore so past the IETF bar for example.
>> JARI ARKKO: Well, they might do that or they might still do the IETF thing but not simply allow connection where one would actually be needed for somebody else to do something so I think that is a big issue. The details of how things get blocked is maybe not so ‑‑ as that you can't find this. I would in some cases like to, I don't know, I haven't thought about this particular case so much but open up social media systems where I can program them better or offer new things there but that's hard today.
>> Thank you. I'm Desiree. Affiliates. I very much envoy joyed the presentation and I'm trying to sum up for me what could be done in this situation because although I understand there's some benefits of consolidation, there are also huge threats to developers to the technical community industry and eventually users and regulators who are trying to find answers for this. So, for me, I'm kind of hearing that in some of the slides you mentioned that federations seem to be the federation of services seem to be this decentralized way of addressing some of the issues.
So, if we maybe, if you agree, if we look at social media platforms, they're taking to be more decentralized. Like Mastadon. We actually have a lot of difficulties maintaining these platforms and they're not all secure but there's a lack of technical expertise and I think this is somewhere where governments and other organizations could help, so, actually do some digital literacy and support and incentivize this kind of platforms where the data doesn't get shared just by one technical player.
So, I think it's an onus on all of us for users to demand these decentralized services but also have a knowledge if they can't get access to these higher stacks and applications where all the data and all the value is today, how do we address it as a society? So, I think it's internet users write to ask for and also obligation to try to use some of this and build some of these federated services but also for developers to know when they develop something that decentralized services may actually help internet users be more in charge of their data. I don't know if you agree, but that's how it sounded to me.
>> Thank you. Jari?
>> JARI ARKKO: Yeah, I think you raise good points. There's actually multiple questions there. When something doesn't, like, there are these social media systems but they're not particularly popular at the moment so there's multiple potential explanations for that. The technology was not done well enough. Well, maybe we could help with that. We as a community or the tech at least could help with that or is it because the users are not demanding this enough. Or, is it lack of standards? Is it lack of recognition in the society that we actually need these alternative ways so it would be useful, I think, to understand a little bit where the issues actually are. It's more in the demand or ability to provide side of things. But, social media in particular is a difficult space because you just want to be in the social media that all your friends are in and I don't know if lots of people have time for 17 other social medias on the side so that's the demand side.
>> Thank you. Final question.
>> If the question is, what can the technical community do, I'm afraid I think the key point is still not about the community, it is about regulation. Because I think in the end, especially in these kind of services like social media where there is a massive scale‑up, the only thing that can be done is to force these companies to open up to any one that wants to try a new service so the new entities can also access the existing base of the services. Otherwise, they will never be able to succeed them. We can use Mastadon, but, again, no one else will be using it. All the other people will be on Facebook. So, this is, I think a priority for regulators. You B in terms of what the technical community has to dorks I think the technical community needs to think about it. I thank you because you are the one in ISG that is taking the lead on this. But, I mean, speaking as a policy person that has been participating in this environment for 20 years but only participating in the idea for the demands it was quite a shock for me to get into this environment in terms of the lack of diversity it still has. So, it looks like everyone else in the internet governance space has been thinking about multistakeholder user while the idea is still not there.
And it's fine if you talk about technical standards because of course the confidence is the key thing there but now it seems like the idea is moving more and more into policy statements at least in some of the drafts under consideration. In some of the effects like ‑‑ which is one of the key arguments now that really have some policy consequences that I think were not fully understood because the idea lacks the representation of stakeholders that would have understood the impact.
And of course it's not by chance that the big internet platforms are, I think, overrepresented in the leadership and especially in the active idea of people so the identify is getting more diverse but if you look at who is actually guiding discussions, it's mostly from the big players so the question is how account idea become more diverse and try to address this. Maybe by interacting more with the rest of the internet environment rather than by changing internally the procedures.
>> Yeah, quick response. I think the first question is probably a little bit of both or at least if the regulators do things, of course the community must react. You can do things in a vacuum or other side. On the diversity thing, you were absolutely right, of course. Although I have to tell you that the IGF is maybe diverse in different ways like we have competitors from different layers, different players and that provides its own angle of things so we often vehemently debate things because of that issue.
But, you're right. There's not the understanding of the broader issues and input from the user community and so on. But, it's very difficult to provide, also. Thank you.
>> We make the perfect step to the next topic, which is on competition. B first, I'm going to ask a few people, just hand the mic for one second. Jari asked, what with can we as a technical community to on this topic. So, he would like to get a few messages. So, perhaps you have none, but I'm going to go around.
>> I'm not technical community. So.
>> Your advice to the topic, what would you like them to do, research?
>> Well, from my angle. I cannot judge, but at least we have working competition law. It's vertical and we have this with the telecoms industry. Consolidation.
>> That's coming.
>> Okay. Then I'll wait for that, thanks.
>> Thank you. Do you have any question to the tech community you'd like them to solve?
>> I thought I was, sorry, (inaudible) I work with, I thought I was getting the same question, what do you think the technical community can do and I regret to say that my answer would have been, very little. Because I think we, I kind of feel that we're addressing symptoms and not the problem. To kind of summarize, my opinion is that the major part of this problem is sea level. I think consolidation of search is not a bad thing. ‑‑ consolidation that serves is not a bad thing. If consolidation is to make our lives better, that's fine. But if consolidation is to rule the world, kill your competitors, maximize your profit, maximize your power and to be the only player, then it is a problem and there's no technical solution for that in any sector.
>> Okay. Is there anybody who has a suggestion for the technical community? Yes. Of course.
>> Thanks. My name is Mahil. I work at the Deutsche Telecom. As a lawyer by training, the to economic things that are happening here are indeed network effects and economies of scale. Economies of scale, I think, are well addressed in competition law in itself and the down sides and network effects are in certain specific areas. Like you just mentioned, the messaging things and what, the technological community could do more, from my perspective, as a regulator who is trying to reach out, but not always successful in that, is to make very clear to regulators to where, policy that is mentioned here or economic positions or other things that, from a technological perspective are not included in your, in the things you see. And then of course the question is, can it legally be addressed this moment and if not, you get into a policy trajectory where you need to find momentum to create new laws but under existing laws, a lot of things can be addressed and certainly under existing concepts and regulation, that's the basic idea of what you can do to counter the negative effects of network effects, it's very simple. That's interoperability. And that's tried and tested. It's just maybe not applied everywhere where it could be desirable at this moment. That depends, of course, on your position so my specific advice would be go and talk to people and really explain, this is not a technical problem because we can't solve it. But, it's an economic problem.
>> Thank you. There were at least some invitations to interact and at least notice each other. The competition, here, here, Marie‑Noemie Marques from Orange will introduce this topic.
>> MARIE-NOEMIE MARQUES: Thank you. It will be a short introduction. As you know, we had a report that had been published including in the United States, a report about competition for the digital markets. Well what I would like to say, while it is from the business point of view. I work from business point of view. You know I'm part of these digital infrastructure. You know, this layer, not the other ones that were presented this morning. And what you with see in this area, in terms of competition, first of all, we can see that the creation and development of digital ecosystems and these adhere to economies of scale and scope and also to the acquisitions that digital companies are making. And they software they are getting bigger and bigger so they are extending market power and entering into adjacent or neighboring markets and eventually, extending to all the parts of the economy. From there, we can create what they call digital conglomerates. The problem is if they are making more and more acquisitions, that can be a problem for innovation. This is what we can see in this area so I think that. Should be ‑‑ to take competition into account and have better determining of these acquisitions. This is one of the possibilities that can happen there. They are reinforcing their market power and abusing of their power. So, here, there is, it is very important that we understand better the strategies of these players because this is something that needs to be assessed so that we understand what are the reasons for this extension of market power.
So, the other content that we may have is about the responsibilities of these players. Especially when they have a dominant position, and also the level playing field. So, in this area, as these market players, they act as regulators because they are setting the rules for the views of the systems. In fact, it is important to see that these players may eventually be tempted to abuse their position in the market.
So, if they have an ‑‑ behavior or use self‑preferencing abusive lie, for example, we can think that we can have some rules to, yeah. To define, on the market so that these players have to abide by rules. So, the question is, what are the means of the authorities to ensure that the platform's rules do not impede free and distorted and vigorous competition?
And the last point of concern that I can mention is access to data. So, in this area, of course, everyone has already said that this is the ‑‑ for the economy. And this is now an essential input for innovating and creating new services and new products. Then, has dissemination of use and data needs to be balanced with public policies such as the protection and some other incentives for investing in the use of data and new services. For the business, what is important is that there is the possibility of the firms and other companies to use the data for innovation and creation of new services. So, this is considered as being important and it is important to look at, to look for the best conditions to allow data sharing for the firms and for the production of new services. So, that's what I wanted to tell you.
>> Thank you, Marie-Noemie. It's clear that the competition has come up a few times. It's also clear that some very good points were made that need to be debated upon, need to be discussed. We've formulated a few questions. We may not get to all of them but let me start with the first one to the room and then see who would like to answer. But, in view of the growing role of dominant platforms in the digital economy is there a need ‑‑ I got to put my glasses on, because this is not feasible anymore. Is there a need to adapt competition rules and/or regulation to respond to nuchal he cans that our society are facing. So, once again, in the view of growing roles in the digital economy, is there a need to adapt competition rules and/or regulation to the new challenges that our societies are facing. Who would like to kick off here? Yes, Michael.
>> MICHAEL OGIA: Thank you. My name is Michael Ogia. I work for the development of media development. I just want to start the conversation by saying, I actually don't know if these are new developments. I mean, Monopoly power, duopoly power is not a recent development. Of course, there are recent developments as it relates to the medium of the internet but the fact that certain players have more market power or more, you know, kind of power over the digital economy isn't new. And so, I don't think that we need to reinvent the wheel or find new mechanisms. I think there are many existing mechanisms, existing market regulatory powers or whether it's antitrust or whether it's new kinds of, or existing forms of regulation, I think, I just think that one of the biggest problems is that not enough market regulation is happening, period. And that has led to some of the massive problems of which we are now related to. Whether it's misinformation or the lack of sustainability for journalism outlets which often keep our information ecosystems rich. So, I don't really know if we need to be having a discussion in that sense.
>> Okay. So paraphrasing it, because it is the internet, does that make it different than the train Monopolies or whatever in the U.S. or the Telecom Monopolies that were split up in the 80s in the U.S. Is there a difference because it's the internet? Who would like to answer or do we agree that there's no difference?
>> JOE MACNAMZY: Hi. Any name is Joe MacNamy. I don't represent anybody except for myself. I think that fundamentally there's a difference because, if you look at any of the big Monopolies online, there are a tangle of different markets. They leverage their strength as simple, brokers, advertisers, and all of that is for a free whose price continues to change. The free that you pay Facebook for today is three times more valuable than the free that you paid Facebook two or three years ago and getting to grips with that in competition and in market definition is truly very complicated. I want to come back on the issue of a level playing field and the strength of market players and the need for equal treatment. You'll be delighted to know that I'm a customer of yours. I use Orange Belgium. And in Orange Belgium, I get unlimited access to Facebook and Twitter and everyone else has less equal treatment by you. So, I cry a little bit inside every time I hear Orange talking about a level playing field because the rules of your playing field are benefiting the very companies that you claim that you need a level playing field against.
And net neutrality and proper neutrality and equal access for everybody on all levels is an absolute first step. So, complaining ‑‑ arguing in favor of equality while in practice, being opposed to it, doesn't bring us very far forward in opening up competition.
>> Thank you. It's Marco with RIPE NCC. I think what you said, one of the things, in the current environment. And I think we must also not forget that at least my personal feeling is what we sometimes call set of behavior is also sometimes driven by jealousy. We seem to sometimes pick on companies, pick on the companies, basically not because they're anticompetitive, but because we simply lack the competition. We simply lack somebody to challenge them and we drive that and then say, like, yeah, that platform is very much anticompetitive. It's a dominant market player but we're currently lacking someone in the market that can challenge that. For instance, in search engines, there be simply is nobody there that can provide an equal service whether we want it or not.
>> Thanks. Mahil again from the Deutsch Telecom Authority. I'd like to say two things. One about net neutrality but first, something about, is there something new about the competition on the internet and I think the basics are not new because the concepts of, like I just said, network effects and economies of scale are not new but what is new is that this is a truly global market with truly fast rollout of new networks and that significantly increases the network effects so in that sense, I do think it is new. It has new element. And as was also recognized by Vonna Kaiser on the stage earlier when she sent her policy letter to Dutch parliament about the consideration that maybe a new competition‑based law tool which would be working ex ante as we say in jargon and not ex post that this would be worth consideration at least. So, that would mean that it would be, according to her view and that supported by us, desirable to think about an instrument that could give regulators, be it European or international, the power to say to a big company that they need to open up their network or their services in a certain way before they committed a crime under competition law. So, now, the only way for European commission is to say, after a company has done something that they did wrong, that they need to pay a fine, which usually takes years of working to get there so the idea would be to be faster.
So, that is not fundamentally new but I think it does require new policy, at least according to some. Then about net neutrality, I think that is part of the rules we have in place now in Europe and that is mainly focusing on the access servers where the technical rules are very clear, I think, in Europe, and economic rules, which you addressed concerning your rating, I think that remains a difficult subject where the politicians were not able to reach a very clear position on whether it's always good or never good. So, it's somewhere in the middle. And as Telecom regulators, we are trying to work on getting a clear line in all of Europe there. And the idea behind net neutrality is, in my personal view, that it should at least prevent companies from leveraging their market power and others not but this can be thought of differently.
>> Would you like to respond?
>> To my knowledge, in Europe, there is competition in the telecommunication market. The rules applied in every country do, have created several operators competing on the market. Then, I believe that there is some competition in the telecommunication market in Europe for every country. In addition to that, what I would like to say is that also competition should apply at every layer of the economy and then if for example, in relation to a platform, whatever it is, for the small, for the companies that are working on the marketplace with these platform, I think that's, of course, the rules should also apply to them. So, this is what I wanted to say for the competition including at the platform level. Competition rules is for everybody at every level of the economy. So. Thank you for having part of the discussion with competition. Just a starting point because as you know, it's only starting in the world, in Europe, in the United States, and probably in other areas in the world. This discussion has only started and it will need a lot of time to understand what the market is, what these ecosystems are doing, what the consequences they have, the effects they will have on the market and we need to make more research on that, on data, on the impact of data.
And also, on what this new ecosystems are going to do in the society. So, we'll see. Will be discussing this a lot of times and then we'll see how we progress on this. Thank you.
>> I've got one question for Jari and then we move to the next topic. Jari, we, in this discussion, mainly focused on Google or Facebook but there are very much different layers to the internet where Google, perhaps, doesn't have any role or perhaps is getting a role. Is that something that you sensed that other people perhaps do not see on a reasonable basis. Carl?
>> CARL GAHNBERG: Yes, I can answer that. As outlined in those three domains, this is something that we were trying to communicate to the read that yes, you have this sort of visible internet for the user where I think these trends aren’t intuitive or perhaps apparent for users but then you have similar trends, if you look at Cloud computing as a good example, you have essentially a handful of companies that really dominates that market. I think AWS is estimated to have around 50 percent of the infrastructure services and then you have sort of tightly followed by I think it's Microsoft with 25 percent so you do have these trends in other parts of the internet as well that goes beyond what we as users might see.
>> So, adds an extra layer to this discussion that needs to be defined at a later point in time. We're going to move to the third pillar of this discussion, which is, society. So you can think of access or human rights or other points of view. But, from bit David if Bits of Freedom will go about introducing this topic.
>> Yes, I think it goes without saying that our company, that everybody is empowered to use these communication platforms free from undue interference by governments and also by undue interference of corporations. Therefore, we think it's crucial that platforms and actors that serves the digital information ecosystem should reflect the diversity of voices, people and communications that make up our society in Europe and across the world.
However, if we look at the current situation and the right hand we're talking about today, we see that a few giant ‑‑ dominate. And their dominance is increasing. It is safe to say that most of our online activity is facilitated by only a small number of players in these fields. This is especially true if you look at, you can look at on the infrastructural level, say, the Telecom operators, but, I won't talk about the platform providers. Say, a bit were operating on the top level. This is especially true if you look at Europe. This is especially true for basically three companies. Alphabet, that includes Google and you tube, for example. Facebook. That has Facebook itself and WhatsApp and Instagram, and Twitter. Just to give you an idea, in 2013, a study was conducted that showed that a Google outage led up to a 40 percent drop in internet traffic and then in 2017, 80 percent of referrals came physical ‑‑ or Google. And if you look at the advertising market, you see that 60 percent of digital spending on digital ads is going to Facebook and Google.
So, aside from the economic aspects, I just want to highlight a few of the societal consequences and pitfalls that come with basically scaling up. First of all, how can these major platforms deal with the diversity of people? If you electronic at how these companies operate, they have a monolithic system. For different reasons, economies of scale, just to lower the cost, they offer single servers to a global population that has a very basically rigid standards, and common architecture. It's very hard if you have a system like that that basically there are forces to just offer a uniform service and apply uniform policies to address the diversity of all the users that use those platforms. This is especially true if you rook at the way those platforms apply norms and values. If you look at the dominant players in Europe, we see that they are generally originate from the U.S. or they're based in the U.S. Than U.S. standards become the de facto norms and standards we have to obey to. Just to give an example, that's often used the way nudity is approached. The way nudity is approached in the U.S. is totally different than in the Netherlands and if you look at content with regards to violence, it's also very different per country. So it's very hard to take those into account.
And the societal impact of the platform is also amplified by the multitude of functions that platforms, there's platform serve and the many different actors that use those platforms. If you look at the largest platforms, they have a very deepening impact on our society. Basically, Y Facebook already announced they want to launch their own cryptocurrency. You see they also want to become a p player in the financial services industry but you see they simultaneously act as an advertising platform, platform for communities, minorities to community with each other and also to connect organizations with their customers or followers and it also creates content creators or influencers who are highly dependent on those.
And there are also a lot of actors that are implied by these platforms. First of all, we use it as, say, consumers, as citizens, as parents, as employers. But, it's also used by law enforcement. Also used by intelligence agencies. By political campaigners. By businesses. And by artists.
And all these different actors have come with their own specific services. So, the multitude of functions and actors that are implicated make clear that consolidation over online communications landscape has potentially a huge impact on our society. The question is whether we will be able to solve all issues by addressing the individual symptoms. We often talk only about the digital developments. I think it's very important that we look instead, take a more holistic approach and look amount the systemic factors and causes are underlying the consolidation we're seeing right now. Think, for example, of the underlying dominant business models and the accesses they're from. For example, the advertising model behind many of those business platforms. We should talk about those underlying factors as well and not just focus on the symptoms.
I think that's basically the introduction. You're going to introduce the questions that we formulated.
>> I would like to make it more general at this point because we've unfortunately had several worries announced to us at this point in time. Is anybody actually worried about the concentration at this moment going on, on the internet so who is worry indeed raise your hand, please. I see two, three, four, five. More people worried now. You've already had a, so, who raised hands here? Who hasn't spoken yet. Marcus, were you one of them?
>> MARKUS KUMMER: Markus Kummer. I'm here speaking in my personal capacity. I'm definitely not an expert on competition law but I'm also one of the guys who put up the hand saying I'm worried. Just looking at the concentration of what Facebook owning, what's happened. Instagram. Just everybody about everybody they have. I like the Deutsche expert on competition of the ex ante approach. I know, in U.S., for example, the laws on acquisition and mergers. Something to look at with upcoming start‑ups and that's, consolidation is one word but to me, it sounds more like concentration, market concentration. Now, I'm aware there are different approaches from the U.S. and in Europe. And there, I would be interested in hearing more about the consolidation. In U.S., it's more interest on consumer harm whereas in Europe, it's more a high level approach to dominant system. No? As I said, I would be interested in learning more about what I do, what the different approaches are and whether it's any way of bringing these approaches together but as I said, I have more questions than answers.
>> So, there's already a role. I saw somebody raise their hand, had not spoken before. This? There?
>> Hello. I will bring a different perspective those who don't know, we are organizing a citizen's debate. The goal is to include ordinary citizens that are not organized into the topic into specific discussion. We've been bringing 12 countries of the world into series of preliminary discussions and we had randomly selected citizens that sat for a full day, face‑to‑face, and discussed on the future of internet. And of course one of the questions was consolidation. They don't call it that way but the question of big companies and big players having a role. And one interesting thing for the discussion, what in many countries happened, was that citizens with r not worried about that and the reason why they were not worried because they said, we've already seen that. We, Alta Vista, and we've already seen that with Yahoo and we've already seen that with other players in Europe or Asia that came where the biggest had 80 percent and then disappeared in the frame of three years or four years of
So, it's interesting that in their vision, this is not a real problem because of the history of what they've been seeing has shown that it can move very quickly in the digital atmosphere. That was a view from that side.
>> Thank you, Antoine. That's interesting because we've already concluded that there's not enough input from citizens. Now we sort of have one from citizens and is there a point of view completely different from the people on the inside looking at the way things are moving forward? That's another interesting question that probably needs some solving. David, you with like to respond and then we move to the next topic.
>> David: Yeah, I just wanted to briefly express that net neutrality has been flagged several times and I think it's a great example of a legal or regulatory intervention that did not only include maybe reasoning from the competition law perspective but also incorporated perspectives from society, for example, to defend freedom of speech. It also incorporated perspectives of fostering innovation online. And I think it would be great to see, particularly net neutrality, the issue ups we had before, I think those could be definitely a good example if you want to check with some of the issues on the higher layers of communication infrastructure in Europe. So, it's definitely worth looking into that and not look at net neutrality just from a competition law perspective but from a broader perspective because if you look at the underlying reason we have these rules, it's much broader than that.
>> Thank you. The next, we need to move to the next topic which is on future research because we are already running out of time fast and I'm going to ask you to sit for five minutes longer because then we can actually decide on the ways forward. Zoe from the cybersecurity college in London who will introduce the topic of future research and what should be researched and studied in the future. Zoe.
>> Hello, everyone. Thank you for being so patient with us. So, unfortunately, I also bring more questions than answers. But, I think to summarize what we've talked about so far, my, I will present three questions to you. So, the first one is, now, we have defined a little bit, what is internet consolidation. How can we measure this phenomenon going forward? What are some criteria or assessments for us to track and monitor when it is happening, whether or not if it's happening, and is it a driver for good or good for exacerbating threats or introducing new harms.
Secondly, this phenomenon as already talked about before is actually changing power dynamics so what are the implications for multistakeholder provinces and government models and how would this impact. And finally, what is the role for researchers, academics like myself, standard setting bodies like IETF. Civil Society like ISOC or any other player when we're looking at data, engaging with this phenomenon. If we're working with players like Amazon, Facebook and Google, partnering with them for their data is an unethical approach because we're also reinforcing their dominant position. So, how can different stakeholders advance without actually contributing or exacerbating the situation.
>> Okay. Who would like to respond first? What direction should research take in your point of view? Or?
>> Yes, Thomas. European commission. I think if you say metrics, from, I would be interested in the parameters or what you need to collect data about, but, even before that, I would, I think, we would need some more qualitative assessment of what combination means. We have talked about several, let's say, market dominance, of course, that's very clear. But, even that is very scattered and cross‑border but it needs some analysis. But, which could be worrying is much more the critical, integration. For example, Google is now trying to have complete vertical ‑‑ with network. What does it mean? So, I would like, maybe there are much more politics analysis needed before you do metrics. Thanks.
>> Yes. I completely agree. We need to actually make sure we're moving forward on the same conceptual frameworks, across different backgrounds, even within Europe in order to actually work collectively around this phenomenon.
>> Somebody else with suggestions? Yes? Please
>> Thank you. I'm Justine Bennett because my husband is participating in this this and I thought it would be interesting, too. The first question is, just totally ‑‑ of this topic but looking at this consolidation of acquisition, recently, I found out if a good information source is like Yahoo finance and if you look at the like, information services companies who is buying what, and every day, there's some acquisition or buyout of small start‑up companies and before they even grow and start really innovating, they get bought out.
And I think it's maybe, like, researchers, academics, they don't usually look at what is happening in the, you know, the financial or stock market, but, I think the information, there is a very rich information on acquisitions and maybe it would be interesting to analyze, what are the implications, you know, on innovations or on, to the companies who are buying up these companies and they ultimately for the users and consumers.
>> Okay. Thank you.
>> MELINDA CLEM: Hi. Melinda Clem. I'm with Afilius and also co‑chair of IGF USA. Shameless bit of promotion before I make a comment. At our NRI meeting in July, we're actually addressing this from two perspectives. The first is a very legal view, a panel that's looking at antitrust and how you measure tech companies under the current framework, and if that's appropriate, and the second is a plenary that's more of a public opinion view. It's entitled, is the tech lash justified some of you know, how much of this is public opinion and how much of it is an actual problem.
I want to follow up on the comment just made. It was very close to what I was going to suggest. From a research perspective, the financial impacts on the actual business consolidation would be extremely helpful information. And one of the reasons is that sort of a forensic accounting, you really don't see. You see it when it's big enough dollar to make a Bloomberg scroll because Facebook or Google has spent an exorbitant amount of money on someone. It's a smaller acquisition and that's how the footprint grows. The other aspect is a little bit more difficult to quantify but worth considering is. It's inappropriate to have an absolute ban on some of these things because some of these companies are explicitly going into business with the intent of an exit strategy of acquisition by Facebook or Google. It would be interesting to understand, if you could, what percentage of that happens and how much of it is more organic.
>> Just very quickly, if I may, before giving the Mike phone to Clement. I think to summarize both inputs, extremely valuable, and to tie it up with what David mentioned, I think we need to think about metrics and assessments from a diversity of disciplines so, include financial tracking but also qualitative definitions. So, we cannot keep looking at this pray problem with a room full of computer engineers and that's the only way forward.
>> Very quick, I kind of want to loop back to despite the fact it's still there, also consider standardization. I occasionally look into this topic like market shares, et cetera. The data is there but it's not very compatible. A lot of data like market shares, it's usually a year old and BIF to read it from a PDF. The same goes in corporate world. They all publish their annual reports but they all publish them slightly differently. It's almost impossible to automate this and work speedily. You end up reading hundred pages looking for the number you're looking for and then it's sometimes not even that compatible.
So, my call also to the regulatory world is help us define what we're look at because it makes it so much easier.
>> So, sorry, I was just going to jump in with a shameless plug. So, part of the work that we're doing this year in trying to understand better consolidation is that we have one line of work where we offer research funding to people that can come up with exactly what we've been discussing now. What is the relevant indicators to understand consolidation and we offer funding for people to collect that data and then we would make it available to the global community under creative ‑‑ so others can do research on it. So, if you have ideas, know people that have ideas, I just wanted to sort of shamelessly plug that into the conversation that we are offering funding for that effect.
>> Thank you. We're going to wind up the session. I'm going to give you ten seconds. I'm going to ask one question to the room. Has the conversation we had changed your point of view on the topic? That's something I would like to know. If it is the case, if it changed your point of view, please raise your hand. If not, then, you're clearly all ‑‑
>> I don't want to keep on talking. It hasn't changed my mind but it has been very useful for me so just to mark that those are not the same things.
>> That's a very good distinction. I think from the sort of comments we heard, we have been looking at each other and the way that hearing each other say it and to hand to Clement, what are the key messages that you've derived from this session and just please come stand up here so that everybody can see.
>> CLEMENT PERAMAUD: Sure. So, reflecting the structure of the session, I have prepared four key messages addressing the four issues we have tackled today. Technical competition, societal and research issues. B first, I just wanted to introduce the fact that there seems to be a consensus on the reality of patterns of consolidation in the vital sectors of the digital economy. So, when it comes to competition, competition rules should not only be enforced but actually adapted to the challenges of the new digital environment. Rules need to be updated in order to better monitor the market platforms and acquisition strategies so therefore states should address the issue of the responsibility of these players and the issue of level playing fields. When it comes to technical aspects, consolidation results from market trends but is also affected by the nature of the technology. So, centralization of services creates new security threats and vulnerabilities that have been presented today. Therefore, the level of the tech sector industry access should although opening up the platforms and for instance, for social media. And what can be done is in terms of interoperability, more collaboration between small players and also security efforts in terms of entering encryption or data minimization, for instance.
When it comes to societal factors, the fact that a handful of platforms facilitate online activities as obviously consequences, those have provided opportunities. They also tend to mobilize U.S.‑based values and norms and just fail to adapt to the individual specific needs and due to the monolithic architectures. When it comes to the last point, about future studies, the concentration of market fora feeds to be better understood. The root cause of internet consolidation as with the as ways to measure its skill needs further studies and such research could fit into policies, resulting in models of cooperative platform economy.
But, as it was indicating in the beginning of the session, a regulatory responses must not interfere with underlying properties meaning not breaking the internet. For government and Civil Society, they should continue to raise awareness of the realities and the impacts of internet consolidation. Thank you very much and maybe just for the adoption of these messages, I would like, if you completely disagree with these messages, raise your hands to see if we can actually adopt them. Thank you.
>> WOUT DE NATRIS: So, does anybody not agree with what has been said or part of what has been said? This is the time to speak up because otherwise it will probably soon be on the internet. I see a lot of happy faces here. We're closing up.
First, would like to thank you for your attendance and your active participation because otherwise, we would not have had a session, basically. Thank you for that. I would like to thank the org team that has been working the past months to make sure that this actually had the forum it had and thank you for that. Thank you for the describes. Thank you for the people ‑‑ thank you for the scribes. Thank you for the people putting it on the screen. Thank you for the people, remote participation at least looking, will whether we had any. I'd like to thank SIDM for making the work possible that I've been doing in the past months and EuroDIG for all the work in the background that also made preparation for this possible. And with that, I think this will not be the famous last words on consolidation but that we will be discussing this topic in the future on other platforms and I'll be looking forward to hear what is going to be said there. And for now, thank you for your attendance again and have a very good EuroDIG
(Session was concluded at 3:30 PM Local Time)
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