Who Owns The Internet?

A general thought put forward by the public is that our Internet Service Providers such as Econet, NetOne and Telecel  own the Internet but that’s not technically true. All mobile operators and other telecommunication companies do not own the Internet but rather exist as Internet service providers to their subscribers.

By Shingie Levison Muringi

These default gateways are the ones that enable us the subscribers to call and communicate with relatives and acquaintances in other countries. Also the interconnections established between these telecom companies will enable subscribers to utilize roaming services when traveling outside their countries because the global networks are interlinked.

So who governs and set operational rules to the Internet if no one owns it???? I am going to dissect the general setup of the Internet so that we get to understand why single enterprises do not have ownership claims to the Internet.

Internet Structure

The Internet Structure representing the professional organizations responsible for its overall development. (Artistic Impression by Shingie L Muringi)

The Internet is run by several independent bodies and work groups which exist to promote a fair evolution, development and use of the Internet services. At the top of the Internet structure sits the Internet Society (ISOC) which is backed by the Internet Architecture Board (IAB),The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF),The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and The International Organization for Standardization (ISO). All these bodies are referred to as standards organizations.

Below the standards organizations are the Internet and telecommunication development professional bodies who handle the fundamental building structures of the Internet. These include the International Telecommunications Union (ITU-T), The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), The Electronics Industries Alliance (EIA), The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

Internet Orgs

The main professional organizations responsible for the day to day development of Internet Protocols.

All the above lesser organizations are responsible for developing communication standards, radio equipments & access methods, satellite communication, cellular towers, VoIP devices and IPTV among other many developmental issues involved in the day to day growth of the Internet.

Looking at the top of the Internet structure, the Internet Society (ISOC) oversees all the responsibilities for promoting open development, evolution, and Internet use throughout the world. ISOC facilitates the open development of standards and protocols for the technical infrastructure of the Internet, including the oversight of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB).IABThe Internet Architecture Board (IAB) is responsible for the overall management and development of Internet standards. The IAB provides oversight of the architecture for protocols and procedures used by the Internet. The IAB consists of 13 members, including the chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). IAB members serve as individuals and not representatives of any company, agency, or other organization.

The IETF’s mission is to develop, update, and maintain Internet and TCP/IP technologies. One of the key responsibilities of the IETF is to produce Request for Comments (RFC) documents, which are a memorandum describing protocols, processes, and technologies for the Internet. The IETF consists of working groups (WGs), the primary mechanism for developing IETF specifications and guidelines. WGs are short term, and after the objectives of the group are met, the WG is terminated. The Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) is responsible for the technical management of the IETF and the Internet standards process.


The Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) is focused on long-term research related to Internet and TCP/IP protocols, applications, architecture, and technologies. While the IETF focuses on shorter-term issues of creating standards, the IRTF consists of research groups for long-term development efforts. Some of the current research groups include Anti-Spam Research Group (ASRG), Crypto Forum Research Group (CFRG), Peer-to-Peer Research Group (P2PRG), and Router Research Group (RRG).

The above explained professional bodies are the ones responsible for building what we all know as the Internet which is accessible through our services providers (ISPs). From today onwards please be well informed that even though you are not an IT guru, the Internet is not owned by anyone but rather is run and co-developed by autonomous organizations who exists to discourage the monopolization of the Internet.

In the coming weeks, we hope to continue looking deeper into each and every one of those organizations so that we get to understand their specific functions.





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