NoC Internet Governance Case Studies Series: Multistakeholder Governance and Nodal Authority – Understanding Internet Exchange Points

December 06, 2016 by Ben Wagner, Patricia Mindus

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This case study considers Internet exchange points (IXPs) as an example of governance processes in action. Internet exchange points are the points of connection between different Internet networks, which enable different networks to exchange traffic at a shared facility without cost to either party through a process known as “peering”. Three different IXP governance models representing large and influential IXPs are compared: the DE-CIX in Frankfurt, CAIX in Cairo, and KIXP in Nairobi. DE-CIX, the largest IXP in the world, is a subsidiary of the German Internet trade association eco, and is thus “owned” by the Internet industry in Germany. Though well functioning, this has meant that key stakeholder groups such as civil society, and the academic and technical communities are excluded from participating in discussions over policy decisions. In contrast, the Cairo Internet Exchange Point (CAIX) is run by a public authority, the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Though it is governed by a broad set of stakeholders including private sector, government, and civil society representatives, its decision-making processes are somewhat opaque. Lastly, KIXP was founded by a Kenyan network engineer and is governed by a local trade association. While set up with multistakeholder coordination under the leadership of the private sector, its day- to-day operations and governance fall under private sector control. By tracing out the plurality of models used for IXP governance and comparing the processes of developing peering relationships, this case provides unique lessons for the governance process, particularly surrounding trade-offs between inclusiveness and effectiveness.