Research Handbook on Governance of the Internet
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Research Handbook on Governance of the Internet

Edited by Ian Brown

The internet is now a key part of everyday life across the developed world, and growing rapidly across developing countries. This Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of the latest research on internet governance, written by the leading scholars in the field.
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Chapter 3: Internet addressing: global governance of shared resource spaces

Milton Mueller


Internet protocol addresses are the unique numbers that identify the origin and destination of information flows on the internet. The addressing scheme, when combined with the method for formatting data into packets, is one of the core features of the Internet Protocol (IP). The address blocks themselves can be considered critical resources, a kind of virtual real estate the possession of which is a requirement for participation in the internet economy. And the inter-domain routing of IP packets, a process which depends heavily upon the way IP addresses are allocated and assigned, is at the center of the day-to-day functioning of the internet. Routing, as we shall see, raises many economic and policy issues of a highly interdependent resource system, such as tragedy of the commons, externalities, etc. IP addresses also serve as a control point or identification method for internet users, raising issues of privacy, surveillance and freedom. Thus, even though the controversies surrounding domain names have attracted much more attention, IP addressing and routing are far more central to internet operations. In the coming decade, the public policy issues associated with addressing and routing are likely to occupy more attention than they have before (Mueller 2006).

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