Hiding in the Open: How Tech Network Policies Can Inform 'Openness by Design' (and Vice Versa) [ORIGINAL UNEDITED VERSION]

49 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2018 Last revised: 28 Sep 2020

Date Written: July 9, 2018


Hiding in the Open (Part II): How Tech Network Policies Can Inform "Openness by Design" (and Vice Versa) (TPRC 46 Paper Abstract: revised July 9, 2018) Open source. Open APIs. Open data. Open Internet. Open science. Open government. The concept of openness seemingly is everywhere in the information technology space. For the most part, openness is seen by its backers as an unalloyed virtue, a way of meritoriously spreading the innovative and social value of a particular online resource. And yet, surprisingly, no rigorous conceptual framework currently exists for assessing the relative value of open systems, especially as compared to their more proprietary counterparts. The author's thesis is that it is critical for stakeholders to fully understand openness at its deepest levels, in order to be able to participate in searching discussions of its merits in technology policy. This paper is the first in a Mozilla Foundation-sponsored series to examine openness across all layers and functionalities of the Internet. Here the focus is on modern day telecommunications and information networks, and their treatment by U.S. policymakers and other stakeholders. Future papers will explore the concept of openness in other layers of the Internet, including data platforms, software (such as open source), hardware, computational systems, applications (such as open APIs), and content. Three relevant industry sectors are reviewed in the paper: -- First, we will examine the architectural basis of the open Internet in its "Middle Layers" software design elements -- including in particular the end-to-end principle, network interconnection, agnostic bearer protocols, and modularity. -- Second, we will turn to telephony network access, from the FCC’s Part 68 “Carterfone” rules, to the Computer Inquiry's basic telecommunications/enhanced information services dichotomy, and the Telecommunications Act/Computer III concepts of unbundling and Open Network Architecture. -- Third, we will analyze the broadband access debates -- from open access to network neutrality -- from the perspective of openness. The paper then provides some initial observations about openness in a networked environment. The framework of “openness by design” will be introduced, as an analytical tool for understanding the concept as a complex systems design trade-off. In particular, openness should not be seen as an absolute value, or always advantageous, or even the clearly optimal default position. Instead, complete openness exists at one pole of a recognized systems polarity with complete enclosure. These two poles form the basis of an ever-shifting continuum between control and freedom, as played out in this instance with regard to networked resources. Moreover, an openness taxonomy can include structural, functional, behavioral, informational, participatory, and perceptual forms. The paper concludes with observing how openness is constantly at play throughout the Internet's software-based overlays and hardware-based underlays. Preliminary thoughts can be articulated on how to apply "openness by design" principles to all layers of the Internet ecosystem, including the data, software, computational, cloud, devices, and applications layers.

Suggested Citation

Whitt, Richard S., Hiding in the Open: How Tech Network Policies Can Inform 'Openness by Design' (and Vice Versa) [ORIGINAL UNEDITED VERSION] (July 9, 2018). TPRC 46: The 46th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3135512 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3135512

Richard S. Whitt (Contact Author)

GLIA Foundation ( email )

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