Internet Infrastructure as a Network of Relations, Devices and Expectations: A Sociotechnical Approach to Internet Exchange Points
TPRC 46 Student Paper Winner, Washington, DC, U.S.
This research paper examines the formation of an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in a country with a low level of telecommunications competition in the Global South. The research applies the Actor-Network Theory (ANT) framework to the policy dynamics around the first IXP formed in Mexico, contributing to unveil the materiality of internet infrastructure and the imaginary that surrounds it. Following Michel Callon (1984)’s three principles: agnosticism – to be impartial with the parts of a controversy; symmetry – to analyze different perspectives with the same lens; and free association – to break the divide between society and technological artifacts, the analysis shows how technical and political aspects are completely interlaced in the design and implementation of an IXP, here defined as a network of relationships. Organizations – characterized by their design and governance – along with individuals, documents, laws, and technology artifacts, are significant actors in the scenario where social, political and economic goals are delegated to the IXP’s technical functions. The lack of convergence among these actors, however, prevents the project from succeeding in the first years of deployment as its implementers expected, while regulatory documents work as the supporters of a dynamic equilibrium to keep the project ongoing.