In 2017 EC DG CNECT commissioned the study for the Next Generation Internet to NLnet foundation and Gartner Europe. The internet has long been recognised as a focal point of Europe’s future, bringing enormous opportunities. However, our collective need to invest and improve the internet as a critical infrastructure of our economies and societies has escalated to a completely new level over the last few years. We know now that the security of the internet was consciously subverted by the US government from its earliest days. The shocking revelations by whistleblowers have exposed these fundamental vulnerabilities that need to urgently be addressed, which is an immense task. On top of that, we have seen how a small set of very large actors have succeeded in using their first mover advantage to already dominate our home markets in very undesirable and unfavourable ways. It is absolutely clear that the two issues combined mean that Europe’s very survival as a relevant global actor is at stake.
The NGI study investigates how to deal with this urgent multi-faceted crisis, and will support the EC in understanding how to re-engineer the internet and subsequently rebuild trust in the post-Snowden internet — where necessary from the ground up. The instruments Europe has are focussed R&D as well as complementary policy measures to address market issues that hinder the desired outcome of the NGI initiative.
In order to reach these important goals, the study team set out to:
- Identify the specific technological topics upon which a Next Generation Internet initiative should focus.
- Start building out the relevant communities around these specific technological topics.
- Map ongoing relevant initiatives, including initiatives in the Member States and at global level.
- Fine-tune the Commission’s current operational model to implement the initiative most effectively.
The overall larger objective is for Europe to reset the power hierarchy on the internet to create a more healty, fair, inclusive and balanced internet that fosters diversity. Europe should not just be a mere user of the next generation Internet, but has much to bring in helping shape the creation of more opportunities and a better quality of life for all. The NGI initiative should enable and accelerate the emergence of new European leadership, regaining Europe’s digital independence and supporting a better internet for everyone.
Such an effort requires a strong, concerted effort and a sustained investment. The study in particular aims to empower the European internet sector as a collective to capture opportunities, both by creating a healthier market as well as through new technology breakthroughs. At every layer of the internet (and not just at the surface) there should be a rich, heterogenous and competitive area where users can easily switch — in the realm of networked technology markets behave in a very particular way. The risk of ever expanding monopolies is to be actively countered. Open source is seen as the strategic R&D mechanism, as a business agnostic accellerator able to push technological drivers as ‘raw materials’ to the economy and to society.
Another key objective of the NGI study is to develop a holistic and long-term perspective on the evolution of the internet, and to identify how the NGI initiative can best contribute to this evolution. On the one hand this concerns “radically new functionalities closely based on common values of creating a more human-centric Internet for people”. On the other hand this means sanitizing and stabilizing core internet technologies that currently put the users at risk. The study aims at maximising the effect of the NGI inititiave in growing European competences in terms of technologies, innovation, market and regulation.