The Real Question of Internet Governance

The latter half of 2012 is one of the heaviest periods of Internet governance activity ever, with three critical events that could change the course of the next decade.  So it’s important to take a step back from the catchall phrase “Internet governance,” and ask what it even means… and why it really matters.

It started earlier this month in Toronto with the 45th meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and continues through the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Baku, Azerbaijan in November.   (NetChoice was a prominent actor at the ICANN meetings and will attend the IGF next week, too.)  Then, December brings us the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai.   Taken together, these events present a series of critical decision points for the Internet’s future. Read more

The GAC Strikes Back

Last week in Prague, the GAC (Government Advisory Committee) relentlessly hammered ICANN over a range of issues relating to the new gTLD program. And while their criticisms were legitimate, one has to wonder to what extent governments were punishing ICANN for past offenses.

At the same time, the ICANN board and management seem to have finally — much belatedly — figured out how important it is to maintain a constructive and positive relationship with governments. ICANN representatives approached the GAC deferentially during Prague meetings, explaining issues with new gTLDs and being flexible about timing for objections to new gTLD applications. Read more

An Open Letter to ICANN’s New CEO, Fadi Chehadé

Dear Mr. Chehadé,

Congratulations on your appointment as the next CEO of ICANN, and welcome to our little rogues’ gallery. Some denizens of this domain (your humble author included) may strike you as a little odd at first, but we’re mostly harmless.

We usually steer first-timers onto the Newcomers track, but in your case, that may be… inadequate. And while we would never presume to tell you how to do your job — which may be one of the world’s hardest — we thought we might offer a few pieces of friendly advice, based on our time here. Read more

Ethiopia Shows That Congress Is Right to Be Worried About UN Control of the Internet

Today a key committee in the US Congress approved a resolution opposing United Nations “control over the Internet.” While some in the Internet community have dismissed the bipartisan effort as mere political grandstanding, recent actions by some UN Member States show that lawmakers have good reason to be worried.

Last month, UN voting member Ethiopia made it a crime — punishable by 15 years in prison — to make calls over the Internet. The Ethiopian government cited national security concerns, but also made it clear that it wants to protect the revenues of the state-owned telecom monopoly. (those guys really hate it when people use free Internet calling services like Skype and Google Talk)

The news out of Ethiopia is just the latest indication that many UN members don’t think too highly of the free and open Internet, or of its multi-stakeholder governance model. Read more

Costa Rica, ICANN, and Nonviolent Governance

There’s a peaceful feeling in the air at ICANN‘s meeting this week, and I think it has something to do with being here in Costa Rica.

Speaking at today’s opening ceremony, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla described how, back in 1948, her country became the first to willingly go without any kind of armed forces for national defense. In that respect, Costa Rica is a lot like ICANN: alone in a hostile world with only its constituents and allies for protection.

Costa Rica has proven that this nonviolent approach can work, but only if you keep your own house in order. If ICANN takes nothing else away from this week’s meeting, we can at least hope it takes a page from its host nation’s playbook.

Everyone here at ICANN 43 has heard the mounting calls by governments and the United Nations to assert more power over the Internet, and by extension, ICANN itself. Read more

Four Promises ICANN Must Meet with New Top-Level Domains

Just back from a week of ICANN meetings in Dakar. Is it just me, or is the new top-level domain program starting to feel like a TLD triathlon, where everyone’s now jockeying for position in the final stage — a grueling marathon?

When ICANN’s board approved the new gTLD plan in Singapore, it came with the promise of small but substantive changes to improve the program. I hope that wasn’t empty rhetoric, because as exciting as the program may be, it must be improved if it is going to fulfill its promise to global Internet users and their governments. Read more

A Month in Africa Charts the Progress and Perils of Internet Governance

There may be no better illustration of how far we’ve come in Internet governance, than this: twice in the past 30 days, the global Internet community has gathered in sub-Saharan Africa to plot a path to bring the Internet to its next billion users.  Just weeks after wrapping up the sixth annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Kenya, Internet stakeholders from around the world traveled back to Africa for ICANN’s 42nd meeting in Dakar, Senegal.


Fifteen years ago, nearly every important decision about the Internet was made in the United States.  But in less than thirty days, the African continent will have hosted two of the most important global Internet policy events of the year. Read more

Multi-Stakeholder Debate at the IGF: Lessons from a Safari

Here at the IGF in Kenya, we’re debating how governments, private sector, and civil society can improve the multi-stakeholder model that’s helped the Internet become such a vital part of life around the world.


Makes me think of another kind of multi-stakeholder model I saw last week on a photo safari in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. Out there on the savannah, grazing animals have evolved cooperative behaviors to reduce the risk of being overtaken by their natural predators. You can watch gazelle, antelope, zebras and wildebeests grazing the same patch of grass or sipping from the same waterhole, while a few take their turn watching out for cheetahs and lions. Read more

Now Begins the Third Stage of ICANN’s TLD Triathlon

The ICANN community here in Singapore is celebrating after the historic vote to expand top-level domains (TLDs). And while I wouldn’t begrudge anyone a few Singapore Slings, I think it’s a little early to start celebrating. The marathon effort ICANN began 5 years ago isn’t even close to reaching the finish line.

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Decision Day for ICANN: the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end?

I’ve just arrived in Singapore, where ICANN’s board will almost surely vote to launch an unprecedented expansion plan for generic top-level domains (gTLDs).  As the new gTLDs start lighting-up over the next two years, we’ll look back on this week as the “end of the beginning” since it ended several years of planning for the actual expansion.

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