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ICANN warns against government control of the Internet

  • 15 September 2010
  • Written by 
  • Published in Strategy

Rod Beckstrom, president and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) says all Internet stakeholders must strive to keep Internet governance out of the hands of intergovernmental organisations.

Beckstrom told an Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, this week that if governments got their hands on the Internet, "Most Internet users - businesses, service providers, non-profits and consumers - would be shut out of the governance debate."

The future of the Internet Governance Forum is set to be decided at a UN General Assembly meeting in December this year.

Delivering the opening address to the meeting Beckstrom said: "The fact that the Internet works is the ultimate tribute to the multi-stakeholder governance model. Governments could not do it alone."

And he warned: "Make no mistake: if we do not address this now - effectively together - the multi-stakeholder model that [has] enabled so many successes will slip from our grasp'¦If governance were to become the exclusive province of nation sates or captured by any other interests, we would lose the foundation of the Internet's long-term potential and transformative value."

According to Beckstrom, "The IGF is an important public forum where all interested parties come together equally to address these issues for the common good. Its greatest values are its egalitarian philosophy and its inclusiveness: the doors here are open.

"The IGF derives its strength and legitimacy from its multi-stakeholder composition. Bringing it into a traditional intergovernmental framework would undermine what the UN itself has been pursuing in recent years: public, private and community partnerships."

In a posting on the web site of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) Wolfgang Kleinwächter, special adviser to the chair of the IGF, said: "The IGF was established by the 2nd UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis 2005. Now the UN General Assembly has to decide about a continuation of the IGF. The evaluation of the four IGF [meetings] (2006 in Athens, 2007 in Rio de Janeiro, 2008 in Hyderabad and 2009 in Sharm el Sheik) started already last year among all involved stakeholders: governments, private sector civil society and the technical community.


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"The overwhelming majority expressed their support for an enhanced IGF mandate, at least until 2015. Some proposed improvements in the structure, the outcome and the composition of the 'Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group' (MAG), which steers the process of the preparations of the annuals IGFs. Only the government of China proposed to substitute the multi-stakeholder IGF by an intergovernmental negotiations process on Internet issues within the UN system'¦ In May 2010 the UN Secretary General published his report where he recommended an enhancement of the IGF mandate until 2015.

"The UN Commission for Science and Technology Development (UNCSTD) has recommended to ECOSOC [the UN Economic & Social Council] to draft a resolution for the UN General Assembly which would than make a final decision in December 2010."

According to Kleinwächter "Regardless of a lot of scepticism in the beginning that the IGF would be nothing more than another 'UN talking shop', the IGF established itself as THE meeting point for discussion around global Internet developments.

"Nearly 2000 high level experts from all stakeholder groups come together annually and discuss cross cutting issues related to global Internet policies reaching from privacy and security to intellectual property, freedom of expression, access to internet infrastructure, net neutrality, the management of critical Internet resources as domain names, IP addresses and root server, cloud computing, social networks, the Internet of things and many others. What people saw as a weak point in the beginning - the fact that the IGF has no decision making capacity - turned into strength."



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