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ICC Paper on Clearing Up Confusion Over Internet Governance

I just wanted to call people's attention to this International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) paper on Internet governance [PDF]. I don't endorse it; haven't actually read it yet, but their say will play a big role and should be widely known.

"With the express aim of clearing up the confusion over Internet governance, ICC has written a new paper clarifying how the internet functions, enumerating the different technical bodies which help to run it and listing the public policy issues it currently affects.

Coming barely a month after the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva, and prepared by ICC's Commmission on E-Business, IT and Telecoms, the paper divides the issue of Internet governance into three main components - technical engineering, coordination of the names and numbers system and public policy matters.

The paper identifies which organizations are undertaking what part of the technical management of the Internet and lists several examples of public policy matters, such as tax, education, security and technological innovation.

An annex to the paper summarizes existing ICC views on the issue of Internet governance, representing a business world consensus from among the commission's more than 200 member companies.

"There was much talk at WSIS about control of the Internet, or Internet governance," said ICC Secretary General, Maria Livanos Cattaui. "What this paper tries to do is clear up some of the confusion about who or what controls the Internet.

"The Internet is an extraordinary success. Thanks to both its technical management by the private sector, and also due to coordination by ICANN, in which the private sector takes a lead role.

"The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has been asked to set up a multi-stakeholder working group on Internet governance. As the voice of world business, ICC welcomes this initiative and looks forward to taking part in those discussions. We offer this paper as a starting point."

The Chairman of the ICC Commission on E-Business, IT and Telecoms, Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, will chair the advisory committee charged with organising the Global Forum on Internet Governance in New York on 25-26 March.

Mr Abu-Ghazaleh said: "ICC looks forward to being a strong contributor to open discussions on Internet issues. We would welcome governments to identify any problems so that we can find the most effective solutions."

ICC, the world business organization, has member companies in more than 130 countries. On behalf of technology and communications companies from all over the world, ICC coordinated the business input to WSIS."

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Re: ICC Paper on Clearing Up Confusion Over Internet Governance Jane Clinton  –  Jan 27, 2004 2:07 PM PDT

Thanks to the editors for cleaning up my submission. I had left it pretty bare but I suppose I should have been more explicit about the fact that I found a certain irony in the title given to the press release by the ICC: "New Paper Clears Up Confusion". In fact the new paper presents the point of view of the ICC, and anyone taking that as fact will, in fact, be… confused. As it has lots of fact mixed in, the paper is useful that way, but I advise taking it with a grain of salt and do your own research - as ever!

After submitting the post, I skimmed through the paper and have noticed some omissions:

Questions of where jurisdiction lies in Internet-mediated transactions are extremely important and form a large part of developing case law related to the Internet. The word "jurisdiction" occurs only once in the ICC paper and then in a different context. See Future Hague Convention on Jurisdiction and Hague Commercial Law Mailing List

The nature of contractural relations comes to the fore on the Internet. Amendment of the Rome Convention on contracural obligations is currently being discussed, but these issues do not figure in the ICC paper. See the Rome Convention website and the ICC position on that.

These are two issues which may be quite important to individual Internet users as part of civil society, and, interestingly, the phrase "civil society" appears only once in the paper. (It occurs in the WSIS declaration and plan, which are quoted in the paper, but only once does the ICC mention it.) (See next post)

Re: ICC Paper on Clearing Up Confusion Over Internet Governance Jane Clinton  –  Jan 27, 2004 2:16 PM PDT

Here is what the ICC paper says about civil society:

in reality there are three components of Internet
Governance, and it is important to clearly distinguish
each component from the others.

Those components are:

the technical engineering function
that allows different components of
the Internet to interact;

the technical coordination of the key
protocols and addresses and names that
underpin the technical functioning of
the Internet, ICANNs functions, which
in shorthand is simply, a sophisticated
directory system that allows people to
accurately contact a website or other
people on the Internet.

the handling of public policy matters
that should be discussed openly among
governments, business and civil society.

Here is the rest of what the paper says about "public policy matters":

II. Public Policy Matters

Public policy matters are, in general, the
responsibility of governments. However,
policy discussions must include the active
participation of business and other stakeholders.
A public policy can result in governments regulating
a particular activity, allowing business to
self-regulate or any combination thereof. Therefore,
a public policy might be to refrain from regulating
where not essential, which we believe to be a wise
strategy in an area of rapid change and technological
development.

A small sample of public policy matters related to
the information society include:

intellectual property protection
taxation
privacy
trade
security
consumer protection / empowerment
education
spam

Some of these issues require international cooperation
and action. There are international bodies such as WIPO
and the WTO with authority and jurisdiction for some of
these issues. Other issues require international coordination
of national policy. A number of bodies exist such as the
OECD, UN ICT Task Force, APEC and CITEL, where these issues
can be discussed and coordinated.

(APEC is presumably Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation, and CITEL is presumably Inter-American Telecommunication Commission, both government/business cooperation fora.

This is not a neutral paper aimed simply at eliminating confusion. It is a presentation of what the private sector wants Internet governance to look like.

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