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ICANN CEO Warns Against Exclusive Control of the Internet by Governments

Speaking at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting in Vilnius , Lithuania, on Tuesday, Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's President and CEO, warned against the danger of placing Internet governance into the framework of intergovernmental organizations exclusively. "If governance were to become the exclusive province of nation states or captured by any other interests, we would lose the foundation of the Internet's long-term potential and transformative value. Decisions on its future should reflect the widest possible range of views and the wisdom of the entire world community — not just governmental organizations."

Related Links:
Rod Beckstrom's remarks at the Opening Ceremony - Internet Governance Forum, Vilnius, Lithuania
Internet Governance Forum (Official Website)

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Despite the appearance of self-interest, Beckstrom is right John Berard  –  Sep 18, 2010 12:21 PM PDT

It might seem self-serving for the head of ICANN to warn against governments' control of the Internet, but the powerful nature of the technology, limited only the the absence of electrical power, runs counter to the artificial limits of borders and checkpoints.

What is "the internet"? Karl Auerbach  –  Sep 21, 2010 12:38 PM PDT

It is disappointing when these kinds of grand pronouncements never bother to define what it is that they are pronouncing upon.

There is a system that moves IPv4 packets from interfaces bearing one IPv4 address to another.  And there is a somewhat disjoint system possibly growing that does the same for IPv6 packets between IPv6 bearing interfaces.

But those systems are largely private with private interconnections.

Decades ago (in the 1980's) a bunch of us gathered at a Chinese restaurant in Palo Alto and decided to interconnect our homes and our small businesses and build a link to other collections of networks.  We called it "The Little Garden" after the restaurant.  Would such a private agreement, if done today, fall automatically under laws and regulations pertaining to "the" internet or would it be, as it physically is, a privately created, privately funded, privately operated, and privately used set of networks that connect to the rest of the world only because we conform to some technical norms?

When it comes to regulation am not nearly as afraid of "governments" as I am afraid of private corporations.  The former tend to have constitutional constraints and have procedures in which citizens can, albeit sometimes slowly and painfully, affect the direction of government policy.  Private corporations, such as ICANN, offer none of those protections.  Indeed that latter private corporation has made a point throughout its history of diminishing to the vanishing point any meaningful impact on its policies by the public.

The larger issue is that we are loading far too much baggage upon bodies of internet governance - why, for example, do we have ICANN creating trademark law, imposing business models, and establishing price terms for the sale of certain internet related products?

If our internet governance bodies were structurally tuned to their functions - i.e. if their form followed their function - then we would discover that much of what passes as internet governance is merely clerical and needs only simple notice-and-comment kinds of public review.  There might be some functions with a deeper political impact, in which case the regulatory body would need a structure more amenable to being affected by the opinions of the body politic.  But I suggest that at some point those bodies would look like governments in miniature, which would raise the question "why create a new government body?"

We do need a body that assures that domain name query packets at the top tier of DNS are promptly, efficiently, and accurately turned into DNS response packets without bias against any query question (found in the DNS query packet) or query source.

That body was to have been ICANN.  But ICANN, like any body with a poor definition of its job, has galloped into the sunset giving itself completely unwarranted authority that would normally be the bailiwick of normal governments.

It is no wonder that governments are upset - they are seeing a rival.  And in many cases the democratic principles of those rivals are not particularly better than those of existing governments.

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