Internet Governance

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Misunderstanding ICANN

Harvard Law School's distinguished Berkman Center for Internet & Society has published a preliminary study, "Public Participation In ICANN." ...The problem with the preliminary study is that it fundamentally misunderstands the role of ICANN in Internet governance. Specifically, ICANN's duty is not and should not be to simply carry out the will of the "Internet user community." Instead, ICANN's duty is to carry out the responsibilities the organization agreed to in its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and contract with the Department of Commerce. This does not mean that ICANN should exclude stakeholder views. more

WSIS: What Is It 'Really' All About?

Until a few weeks ago, almost everyone in the Internet governance circus seemed to ignore the very existence of WSIS. After it popped up on international newspapers, however, things have been changing; and suddenly, I have started noticing plenty of negative reactions, on the lines of "we don't need WSIS, we don't need the UN, we don't need governments, we don't need internationalization - just go away from our network". However, I often find that these reactions are based on fundamental misunderstandings of the issues at stake; so please let me offer a different perspective. more

ICANN and the Virtues of Deliberative Policymaking - Part I

In this two-part series article, Andrew McLaughlin takes a critical look at the recently reported study, Public Participation in ICANN, by John Palfrey, Clifford Chen, Sam Hwang, and Noah Eisenkraft at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School..."The study's presentation and analysis of data contain much of interest, and much that could assist ICANN (and other policy-making bodies) in improving its use and management of online public forums. But the study's value is diminished by two rather fundamental shortcomings: (1) its misapprehension of both the theory and the practice of ICANN's policy-development process, and (2) the sizeable gap between the broad scope of the study's conclusions and the very narrow -- indeed, myopic -- focus of the analysis from which they are derived. Simply put, the study scrutinizes a small and misleading corner of ICANN (namely, its online public comment forums) and leaps to a sweeping (and, in my view, unwarranted) conclusion." more

A Study on Public Participation in ICANN

The following is an executive summary from the preliminary study by John Palfrey, Clifford Chen, Sam Hwang, and Noah Eisenkraft at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. This study considers to what extent the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has achieved its stated goal of a "representative" and "open" decision-making process. more

The End of the Experiment

Amidst a firestorm of debate, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has experimented with various forms of governance of the domain name system (DNS) involving input from the Internet community since its founding in 1998. ICANN's experimentation in running a representative and open corporate decision-making process has largely failed. This failure has manifested itself most explicitly by ICANN's retreat from its effort to enable the direct election of a subset of its Board members and, less explicitly, by the extent to which other efforts to engage the Internet user community in the decision-making process have proven ineffective. more

WSIS Leaving More Questions Than Answers

Two things are important to stress. First, nothing was decided in this meeting, and no actions will be taken until the next meeting in 2005. Secondly, and more importantly, as with anything the devil is in the details. Given the vagueness of the documents available, there are few reliable conclusions that can be drawn from the summit...Before any judgments can be made about the effectiveness, or feasibility of the ideas outlined in the Plan of Action more concrete information is needed. The details of these plans are currently unknown to the Internet community at large, and may even be unknown to the members of the WSIS. Based on the information that is available it appears the Plan of Action needs to be thought through a little more thoroughly. more

ICC and the U.N. Takeover

An organization which purports to be "the voice of world business" is proposing a de facto U.N. takeover of ICANN. The proposal by a senior official of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) would place ICANN under the U.N. umbrella and give a strong role to U.N. agencies and to various national governments, including those that suppress free speech and free enterprise. In a move of breathtaking arrogance, the ICC refused to even invite ICANN or U.S. government representatives to the meeting at which they are presenting their proposal. more

Nations at WSIS Better Off with an ICANN-Like Structure

There is much talk currently about the WSIS meeting taking place in Geneva this week which means some needed attention is being paid to Internet governance. While some may view the term "Internet governance" as an oxymoron and my natural reaction is something along the lines of "I hope that they continue to view regulation as too complicated so that we Internet-folks can just keep doing what we are doing" I confess to knowing deep down that we would all be better off with a simple, effective policy framework than with the current anarchic state. more

ICANN, WSIS and the Making of a Global Civil Society - Part II

This is the second part of a two-part series interview by Geert Lovink with Milton Mueller discussing ICANN, World Summit on the Information Society, and the escalating debates over Internet Governance. Read the first part of this Interview here. Geert Lovink: "Confronted with Internet governance many cyber activists find themselves in a catch 22 situation. On the one hand they do not trust government bureaucrats to run the Internet, out of a justified fear that regulation through multilateral negotiations might lead to censorship and stifle innovation. On the other hand they criticize the corporate agendas of the engineering class that is anything but representative. What models should activists propose in the light of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)? There seems to be no way back to a nation state 'federalist' solution. Should they buy into the 'global civil society' solution?" more

At the Moment, No One Governs the Internet

What's remarkable about this moment is that the hot potato of DNS standard-setting is still up in the air. The US government didn't want to appear to be in charge, and wanted to convince European governments that it wasn't in charge, and so it created (or called for the creation of) ICANN. ICANN was designed to keep other governments at bay. ICANN has, however, no particular delegated power beyond that accorded to it by the contracts it has signed with registries and registrars. In fact, it can't have more power than that, because if it pretends to be a regulatory agency it should be complying with the APA -- and if it pretends to be a regulator its private nature probably violates US law in a number of respects. more