NETmundial Community Agrees on Multistakeholder Model, Not Extent of Government Control

Global Internet governance representatives appeared in agreement on the validity of the multistakeholder model for Internet governance, but some — such as the Russian delegate — offered suggestions about more multilateral involvement, on the opening day of NETmundial. The meeting was webcast from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and was expected to be the first of many Internet governance events about a controversial U.S. plan to transfer some Internet technical authority (WID April 23 p1). Nearly every speaker supported NTIA’s proposed transition of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions through ICANN’s multistakeholder process (WID March 17 p1).

“Several speakers said current internet governance mechanisms have failed so they want a new mechanism rooted in the UN, while others said we need only evolutionary improvements to our current mechanisms,” emailed NetChoice Executive Director Steve DelBianco, who didn’t attend. “All speakers said governments are part of the multistakeholder system, but many of the government speakers claimed that governments must be given special powers since they represent all their citizens.”

Before speaking, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff signed a law to strengthen its Internet privacy policies. “Brazil advocates for a multistakeholder, multilateral, democratic, and transparent” model for Internet governance, said Rousseff. She referenced the “anger and repudiation” brought about by the disclosure of secret surveillance operations by the National Security Agency last year.

“We believe in this community’s use of the multistakeholder” model to meet Internet governance challenges, said White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel. “There are some that would like to use” NSA spying disclosures to “favor of a state-driven system that impedes” an open and accessible Internet, he said. “The issues of surveillance are in no way related to the governance of the Net,” said Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt. Authoritarian regimes are using anti-surveillance arguments to get more control over the Internet, he said. Internet governance isn’t “perfect,” but it must remain “pluralistic, inclusive” and under “multistakeholder control,” he said. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has “full confidence in ICANN,” said Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure, in reference to the NTIA transition of the IANA functions.

NTIA’s plan to transition IANA functions was “overdue and an important step,” said Tim BernersLee, World Wide Web Consortium director. The question of “what is best for humanity as a whole” should be the guiding principle of “every decision ICANN makes,” he said. Berners-Lee said the rapid growth of the Internet was a result of its status as a “neutral platform,” which should be continued to ensure future growth. The multistakeholder community should develop a “global Magna Carta for the Internet” to “expand the rights of an open and free and universal Web,” he said. ICANN should reinforce its “accountability and transparency” mechanisms during the IANA transition, said Google Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf.

Latvian Ambassador Janis Karklinš was appointed chair of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group of the U.N.’s Internet Governance Forum by Wu Hongbo, undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, who spoke on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (http://bit.ly/1prsF05).

Internet governance is “experiencing serious crisis,” said Russian Minister of Communications Nikolai Nikiforov. Such governance “should include all stakeholders,” but Nikiforov noted the “absence of a single center or platform to develop intergovernmental policy.” The ITU could be used for such a framework, he said.

NTIA’s IANA transition plan was endorsed by Digital Europe, an association of European technology companies, and the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO), an association of telecom operators, they said in separate news releases Wednesday (http://bit.ly/QyMMKf) (http://bit.ly/PucTke). Said ETNO Chairman Luigi Gambardella: “Europe’s leading telecom operators are ready to contribute” to the transition process. — Joe McKnight (jmcknight@warren-news.com)