Apathy continues to overwhelm effort to create an internet ungoverned by America

The good news? Only a third of the 30 that responded hate it

The effort to create a new global internet governance body has been dealt another blow after just 30 people responded to a critical month-long comment period, a third of which were hostile to the program.

In total, there were 72 comments to the NetMundial Initiative's proposed "terms of reference" with one third (24) openly critical of the plan, just five in favor and the remainder making broad statements or suggestions for changes.

That weak engagement comes despite the efforts of a dedicated outreach team and email to all 600+ attendees of the NetMundial conference, from which the initiative takes it name, urging them to provide their thoughts.

NetMundial was born after the governments of Brazil and a few other countries flew into a rage over the NSA's mass surveillance of the internet; now ICANN, NIC.br, and the World Economic Forum, want to form a governing body to drag the online world away from Uncle Sam.

Many of the critical comments reiterated the same concerns that have haunted the program from day one: that it is not needed, and would replicate existing efforts to no real benefit.

"Based on our understanding of previous comments there appears to be very limited support, if any positive support exists at all, for the creation of a new initiative," read one comment from the US Chamber of Commerce. "In order to stay true to the spirit of the NetMundial Statement, we strongly suggest creating a new comment period to address whether NMI needs to exist."

The low turnout reflects a similar bout of apathy when the NetMundial Initiative was pressured into running a comment period earlier this year on its reason for existing after an unprecedented rejection from business, technical and civil society groups.

It also comes after the inaugural meeting of its controversial Coordination Council was cancelled for a second time due to the low numbers of respondents to a body that hopes to represent billions of internet users.

Genesis

The NetMundial conference from which the intitiative is derived was dreamed up in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations of blanket global surveillance by Uncle Sam's NSA and the Brits' GCHQ. Brazil and other nations were so incensed by the spying, they wanted a new way of governing the internet – ideally, one without the US and UK ruling the realm like kings. The conference was co-organized by the Brazilian government and domain name system overseer ICANN.

The conference created a final statement that was hailed as a step forward in global internet governance discussions but which was then largely ignored by other institutions, and has had no pragmatic impact.

As a result, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade teamed up with the Brazilian government and the World Economic Forum to launch what he termed the "NetMundial Initiative", aimed at turning the conference statement into real action.

But the initiative's launch was mired in controversy when the organizers tried to install themselves as "permanent members" to a new "council" that would decide the path forward and also give themselves the right to select who else sat on the council. That approach led us at The Register to dub it a "UN Security Council for the internet".

The initiative's goals and aims were poorly laid out and appeared to conflict with existing bodies, such as the Internet Governance Forum. The organizers' then gave contradictory statements about the initiative's approach and aims while inadvertently revealing that there had been no actual effort to develop the platform they claimed the entire initiative was built to support.

The result was public rejection by, among others, the Internet Society, Internet Architecture Board, US Chamber of Commerce and parts of civil society.

Regardless, the Coordination Council was formed and continues to hold weekly meetings in which it outlines grand plans to tackle global internet governance issues. Unfortunately, as this public comment period has made clear for a second time, no one else is interested in what it has to say. ®

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