Will Obama Re-nationalize ICANN?

Speaking at a Technology University of Delft conference on the internationalization of infrastructures, Professor Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger made some unique and provocative observations about the future of the ICANN tether to the U.S. government. Mayer-Schoenberger was trying to predict the position of the three main players: the EU, the US and China.

The EU, he said, was typically about 4 years behind. It was now willing to accept and confirm the American decision to privatize ICANN; moreover, it no longer has any substantive policy position but is focused entirely on structures and processes. Whereas the old EU of WSIS tried to make the end to end principle part of the Internet’s global governance, or tried to stand for privacy and other substantive rights, it now has nothing to contribute but oversight structures and appeals processes. He also noted that the EU was edging away from multi-stakeholderism toward traditional multi-lateralism: a “20th Century Multilateralism redux.”

But just as the Europeans come to accept a privatized ICANN the U.S., he said, is starting to question it. The Obama administration, he predicted, will “re-nationalize” ICANN. To him re-nationalize meant two things simultaneously: first, that the U.S. “doesn’t give a damn” about internationalizing it; second, that the US government may be inclined to reverse the privatization and bring ICANN closer to the U.S. government to supervise and regulate. The U.S. position, like the European one, was a repeat of 20th Century ideas: a “New Deal redux.”

As for China, he called their position a “Sun Tzu realism” in which Multi-lateralism replaces Multi-stakeholderism, but the multilateralism occurs on several different layers. All processes and institutions are changeable, nothing is set in stone. China, too, prefers to de-emphasize or evade talk of human rights, preferring “ethics” and “order”. (He got some flak on this, as others, including myself, characterized China as basically nothing more than a pure, traditional sovereigntist.)

The bottom line, for Mayer-Schoenberger, was a rather pessimistic outlook in which the following trends can be seen:

– Greater divergence, not convergence, among the big players on the appropriate structures and processes;
– A tilt towards abandoning Multi-stakeholderism
– A convergence on the irrelevance of substantive policies. There is no room for rights, no guaranteed values in the discourse, just structures.

VMS is Professor at the National University of Singapore and Director of the Center for Information and Innovation Policy there.


  1. Anonymous

    ICANN has REALLY helped make spam worse.
    The fox guarding the henhouse works for the registrars, rather than the public.
    Somehow, a year ago they slapped the wrists of the ten worst rogue registrars. Of course, since then, nada & zero followup.
    Registrars have ZERO incentive to police themselves and the cyber criminals know only too well which registrars lack ethics
    Check out the spam sponsored by the top ten at http://rss.uribl.com/nic/
    A big thank you (NOT) to $ICANN$ and the FTC for so much support for cyber crime….

  2. Anonymous

    1. ICANN was mainly created to test market some Proof of Concept TLDs. The test was a failure. ICANN was also created to fund Jon
    Postel and Vinton Cerf's clubs and cliques.
    2. ICANN has been captured by Verisign.
    ICANN does not serve the public interest.
    ICANN serves the growing ICANN staff.
    3. Most people get their DNS from their WIFI Linux router connected to their DSL or cable modem.
    Centralized root servers are no longer needed.
    4. A new DNS technology is almost ready which makes ICANN (and Verisign) obsolete. It uses DHT
    technology which most ICANN groupies would
    never understand.
    5. The new DNS technology will run in the smart edge devices (see #3) controlled by consumers, not ICANN, the USG, the EU, or the ITU.
    6. ICANN sees the competition (replacement)
    coming and now decides to flood the market with
    7. The new TLD chaos will drive American consumers to the new technology (See #5).
    Obama will take credit for the change.
    8. ICANN and the NRO (ARIN) continue to send
    each other love letters supporting their collusion
    and cartels, which are normally illegal in the USA.
    9. There will be no shortage of IPv4 address
    space once new technology and ICANN are
    out of the picture. The Internet views
    censorship as damage and routes around it.
    10. What will Milton Mueller do without ICANN and ARIN for subject matter ?

  3. Anonymous

    Hi, Jim Fleming. It is such an honor to see that you've discovered our blog.

  4. Anonymous

    The good news is that The Big Lie Society has been “outed”. It has taken over 10 years to flush out the Taliban of the Internet. The U.S. Government can be a big help making sure that ICANN and the rest of the clique are not set free to muck with the next generation Internet being deployed.
    R.I.P Postel, Cerf and Crocker – the damage your crowd has done can not be measured.

  5. Anonymous

    “This new approach starts at the top, with this commitment from me: From now on, our digital infrastructure—the networks and computers we depend on every day—will be treated as they should be: as a strategic national asset. Protecting this infrastructure will be a national security priority. We will ensure that these networks are secure, trustworthy and resilient. We will deter, prevent, detect, and defend against attacks and recover quickly from any disruptions or damage.
    To give these efforts the high-level focus and attention they deserve—and as part of the new, single National Security Staff announced this week—I'm creating a new office here at the White House that will be led by the Cybersecurity Coordinator [or, as called by some, a Cyber Czar]. Because of the critical importance of this work, I will personally select this official. I'll depend on this official in all matters relating to cybersecurity, and this official will have my full support and regular access to me as we confront these challenges.”

  6. Anonymous

    The S.S. ICANNic is Sinking
    Preliminary Report
    Resolutions of Special Board Meeting
    21 May 2009
    Board Arranges and Re-Arranges Deck Chairs on the S.S. ICANNic
    Mr. Twomey is called to Washington to be Fired
    b.JPA Hearing
    Staff reported that the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet scheduled a hearing on the Joint Project Agreement and other ICANN related issues including new gTLDs on 4 June 2009 and invited Dr. Twomey to appear as a witness.
    Wait !!!! Twomey already resigned, you can't fire him.
    Clever how slippery those Aussies are….
    Last one out – turn off the lights – The S.S. ICANNic is going away

  7. Anonymous

    May 29, 2009, 4:51 pm
    Google’s Top Policy Executive to Join Obama Administration
    By Miguel Helft
    Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s head of global public policy, is leaving the company to join the Obama administration, according to two people with knowledge of Mr. McLaughlin’s plans.
    Mr. McLaughlin will be deputy chief technology officer, reporting to Aneesh Chopra, the chief technology officer, who was previously Virginia’s secretary of technology, said these people, who agreed to speak only if their names were not used because Mr. McLaughlin’s appointment had not been announced.
    Mr. McLaughlin’s move is likely to renew concerns among some Google rivals and public policy groups about Google’s growing clout in Washington.
    A Google spokesman confirmed that Mr. McLaughlin was leaving the company. Mr. McLaughlin did not immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment. An e-mail message to the White House press office was not immediately answered.
    Mr. McLaughlin joined Google about five years ago and directed the company’s public policy efforts. Previously he was an executive at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit group that helps coordinate the Internet’s address system. He is an emeritus fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, and was part of Mr. Obama’s transition team as a member of the Technology, Innovation and Government Reform Policy Working Group.
    Mr. McLaughlin is the latest Google executive to take an official role in the Obama administration. Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, has been a close adviser to President Obama’s transition team and is now a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

  8. Anonymous

    It's the same to you, Milton. If you guys keep imposing your own ideology on others from different cultural backgrounds, you're nothing but sovereigntist! That's why I don't see any value of IGF now.

  9. Anonymous

    News Flash – Obama is Creating New .JOBS
    Employ Media, responsible for administering the new .jobs sponsored Top Level Domain, has recently begun accepting domain name registrations for trade name owners. For more information, and for a list of registrars selling .jobs domain names, see http://www.employmedia.com/.
    ICANN.JOBS -> WhiteHouse.JOBS
    All of the (smart) ICANN insiders are moving to the Whitehouse. The Whitehouse can decide what TLDs remain in THEIR Root Servers.
    “This new approach starts at the top, with this commitment from me: From now on, our digital infrastructure—the networks and computers we depend on every day—will be treated as they should be: as a strategic national asset.”

  10. Anonymous

    Source: CongressDaily
    Author: Andrew Noyes
    Even though the Obama administration has made important, early strides in its first 133 days as part of its technology policy agenda, Susan Crawford on Tuesday said the White House has a long way to go. “We need your criticism, your engagement, your involvement, and your help,” Susan Crawford, special assistant to the president for science, technology and innovation policy, told the Computers Freedom & Privacy conference. After “timely, targeted and tapered” economic stimulus package implementation, the Administration's focus will turn to job creation — and that weighs heavily on high-tech investment, said Crawford who is also a member of the National Economic Council. Innovation is tied to a range of priorities from diminishing the country's carbon footprint and creating clean energy jobs to reducing the cost of healthcare and educating the next generation. Crawford also spoke about the need to bolster broadband deployment and bridge the gaps between urban and rural areas and rich and poor Americans.

  11. Anonymous

    BO Knows DNS…
    U.S. Government Announces Intention to Start Taking Over DNS Operations From ICANN and Verisign – The JPA Becomes the NonJPA – Non-Joint
    WASHINGTON —The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today that the two agencies are working with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and VeriSign on an initiative to enhance the security and stability of the Internet.
    BO Knows DNS…