Last month, AU SOC PhD candidate and Internet Governance Lab fellow Fernanda Rosa successfully defended her dissertation titled, ‘Global Internet, Local Governance: A Sociotechnical Approach to Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)’.
As the physical points through which Internet service providers (ISPs)(e.g. Verizon, AT&T, etc.) and content delivery networks (CDNs)(e.g. Akamai, Cloudflare, Amazon, etc.) exchange web traffic, IXPs play an incredibly important — though largely unseen — role in delivering content to end-users. As such, these physical sites of interconnection mediate all manner of public interest questions, including efforts to bridge the digital divide, notions of Internet sovereignty and data localization, innovation, interoperability and more.
As Dr. Rosa explains:
The Internet is an arrangement of interconnected private networks, each of them with different types of technical and political control (Abbate, 1999; Roberts et al., 2011; DeNardis, 2014). Although the network interconnections are not visible to Internet users, they are typical and essential for the Internet. Such connections are physical and logical, and are possible through cables and structures distributed among countries (Nye, 2014). In this context, an important interconnection facility gains relevance within the Internet architecture, the Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). IXPs are physical facilities where these networks can interconnect, including Internet Service Providers (e.g. Comcast) content intermediaries (e.g. Google, Facebook), universities, banks and other networks. The purpose of my dissertation is to illuminate the sociotechnical (Winner, 1986; Latour, 1999) aspects of the IXPs, making visible the controversies behind them and the social and political values at stake. In my dissertation, IXPs’ functions and affordances will be elucidated and contextualized in light of public interest questions, such as digital divide; sovereignty and infrastructure dependence among countries; Internet surveillance; the Internet economy and the privatization of Internet governance. To do that, I use a mixed methods approach, including qualitative interviews, on-site observations, data collection on IXPs websites and analysis of quantitative datasets about Internet routes and traffic.
We congratulate Dr. Rosa on her defense and look forward to seeing how her research develops going forward.