The African Network Information Center (AFRINIC), one of the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) pivotal to the operation of Internet infrastructure, has been moved into receivership by Court Order from the Bankruptcy Division of the Supreme Court of Mauritius, as detailed in an NRO official statement. While this development occurred quietly, it is important to note. Detractors of Internet governance could perceive this development as a failing of private governance. However, a closer examination reveals an important lesson.
AFRINIC’s entrance into receivership demonstrates one of the effective mechanisms in private contract-based Internet governance. Despite the serious governance challenges that we outlined earlier, this recent turn of events in the AFRINIC drama underlines the strength and resilience embedded in the private Internet governance model.
A core aspect is the enforcement of rule of law, the appointment of a court appointed receiver will preserve organizational stability while it replaces leadership. The receiver’s role is to maintain the status quo of AFRINIC’s assets and preserve the value of the business. Under receivership, AFRINIC is restrained from any relocation or a takeover, merger, restructuring, or management control. The receiver is tasked with overseeing an election process in accordance with AFRINIC’s constitution, facilitating the formation of a proper board, and appointing a Chief Executive Officer, all within an expedited process with court oversight. Although legitimate questions have been raised about Mauritian bankruptcy procedure and the system seems overburdened, the government acts only as a safeguard ensuring continuity of operations and services provided by AFRINIC, including the allocation of critical Internet resources, which will continue uninterrupted.
These developments provide a vivid illustration of how private and public sectors collaboratively ensure resilient Internet governance. Receivership does not denote a breakdown but is a structured remediation, ensuring that any board and policy mismanagement issues do not escalate into systemic failures that could threaten global digital connectivity.
The whole scenario again shows private contractual governance is capable of self-correction and adaptation to challenges, with the rule of law and government enforcement acting as necessary checks in the system. It affirms effective governance by and resilience of the RIRs and ICANN/PTI, showing them capable of handling crises while ensuring the uninterrupted management of critical Internet resources that Internet infrastructure is dependent on.