EC calls for one world internet governance
ICANN haz oversight too?
The European Commission is once again calling for the United States to let go of ICANN and place it under international supervision.
Echoing an earlier appeal from EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, the Commission said in a statement today that future internet governance "should reflect the key role that global network has come to play for all countries."
ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a California-based non-profit group that oversees the internet's address system. It currently operates under a Joint Project Agreement with the US government, which expires at the end of September 2009.
"It is an appropriate time therefore for the EU to review the progress of ICANN to date, and to identify what changes if any may be desirable," the Commission said.
In a communication entitled "Internet governance: the next steps," the EC proposed that ICANN operate under private-sector authority for day-to-day internet management, "but ultimately be properly accountable to the international community as a whole."
The Commission didn't follow Reding in directly calling for a "G-12 for internet governance" to oversee ICANN, but the paper does say current arrangements with the US government "need to be replaced with an alternative mechanism to ensure that ICANN has multilateral accountability."
As the Joint Project Agreement is ending now, the Commission believes that ICANN should become universally accountable, not just to one government but to the global internet community," the EC stated. "This is particularly relevant given that the next billion internet users will mainly come from the developing world."
The Commission adds that the question needs to be addressed of how to ensure ICANN's incorporation in California doesn't prevent proper account being taken of US government input.
It concludes that the EU should begin discussions with the US over making ICANN more open to global input, "which respects the national priorities of the US while at the same time reflecting the legitimate expectations and interests of the international community."
A copy of the Commission Communication is available here. ®
US Dept of Commerce Mandate
OK... so ICANN is in place at the behest and authorization of the US Dept of Commerce, who "inherited" the DARPA WAN that became the "Internet".
However, the "Internet" is not controlled by the US. Each and every network is owned and controlled by a corporation or academic institution. Such US-Controlled interests as France Telecom (Orange), BT, Telecom Italia, Deutsche Telekom, and China's government owned networks. Hmmm...
Does it actually control the day to day operations? Like registration of new domains, approval of MX records in DNS, etc.? Well, no... That is done by other corporations, like Verisign (virtual monopoly, actually, but only for a & j root servers) and various international registrars. Well, darn...
Does it create the standards used by all participating in the Internet? Well.... no. That would be the IETF and W3.
Hmmm... What *does* ICANN do? According to the website http://www.icann.org/tr/english.html, they give out IP addresses for domains, say how gTLD (generic Top Level Domain) and ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain) should be managed, and say how root DNS should be managed. So they are the boffins that figure out the impact of changes, how to best implement them, and recommend best practices. A buffer group for the IETF, then? All the true work was "sub contracted" out to private telecoms or dedicated-use companies *at international request* in the mid-1990's, remember?
When the Joint Project Agreement expires, the options are to renew with ICANN, or the US Gov/ment can *take back* the responsibilities and work again. If it took it back, then the US Commerce Dept has the option to lease out the responsibility to another company. This works on a continually renewing basis as the *permanent* relationship between Ofcom and BT, for example, with Ofcom responsible for regulating how things should go (in name only, perhaps for this case) and BT doing the work.
So wait a minute, you may be thinking... That's right - the US Gov'ment ultimately controls the management recommendations (not the ownership) of the telecommunications infrastructure it funded and created *within the US*. The only reason this has expanded beyond the US is because no one else had the gumption to do it themselves. And money, of course.
The "segregation of the Internet" that some claim would occur if ICANN picked up its toys and went home is already here - each country can close themselves off at will (Iran, anyone?) without word or recourse from any other country. Governments already have back-ups lines separate from the "public" Internet and would not be troubled by its working or not. The only thing that keeps it up and running in an *internconnected* fasion for you and me is the money-grubbing companies that use it for their data and the paltry (comparatively) sums paid out by me and you.
Leave ICANN to get on with the job
ICANN has done a pretty good job so far, and I would rather trust them than the politically motivated career politicians who know nothing about IT and everything about control of the masses.
Definitely should be internationally governed
It may have been created by the US, but it's used by loads more than USians and therefore other governments should have a say. As far as efficiency goes I seem to recall non-Roman alphabet TLDs weren't a big priority for Yankee-land-based ICANN, were they?
That's the kind of issue that justifies taking it away. Otherwise I will happily welcome the fracturing of the internet into regional fifedoms if that's what it takes for national interests to get a fair hearing.