We were discussing how governments could take over ICANN. This was in response to a new meme gaining popularity within the Beltway: the idea that we need to retain the Commerce Department’s leash on ICANN (the JPA) because if we don’t, other governments (autocratic Russians, Chinese commie hordes, turbaned Islamo-fascists or languid, dirigiste Europeans) will somehow “interfere” with DNS.
But the future of the JPA has virtually nothing to do with ICANN’s subordination to other governments. It's about ICANN's subordination to the US government. The people advancing this meme have not specified how a government takeover is supposed to happen, much less how retaining the JPA would prevent it. As I started to argue yesterday, it is hard to conceive of a single plausible scenario for governments to exert more power over ICANN that isn't either a) already happening, and being aided and abetted by the USG; b) more likely to happen the longer the US stays in control or c) require the US government’s consent.
To prove this point, here are some plausible scenarios and mechanisms through which national governments could put pressure on ICANN. By examining these, we can better appreciate just how far off base the CDT and others are.
“War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.” And, according to the Center for Democracy and Technology, ICANN's Joint Projects Agreement giving the US government the ability to tell ICANN what to do is a way of “protecting the DNS against governmental interference.” Hmmm…
The European Parliament has issued a resolution which illustrates the growing interplay of global Internet governance and domestic or regional polities. It also hints at how we might begin to incorporate the broad array of interests affected by global Internet policies.
ICANN is lobbying hard to bring an end to its “Joint Project Agreement” (JPA) with the US Commerce Department. (The JPA is one of two tethers that ties ICANN to the US government.) Key ICANN management personnel are in Washington today and meetings are being held with industry stakeholder groups. Feelers are being sent out to other stakeholders.
ICANN’s Board Chairman, Peter Dengate Thrush, laid down a bold and clear position in his early filing of comments before the NTIA: “The JPA is no longer necessary. Concluding it is the next step in transition of the coordination of the Domain Name System (DNS) to the private sector. This step will provide continuing confidence that the original vision laid out in the White Paper is being delivered.” Although there is more to global Internet governance than ICANN, this issue deserves more attention than it seems to be getting.
The root server agreement between ICANN and ISC was published yesterday. As “agreements” go, this is a good one — by which we mean, it reflects a peer relationship between ICANN and the root server operator and does no harm to the status quo, which is flexible and distributed. The contract, labelled a “Mutual Responsibilities Agreement” (MRA), constitutes a massive concession to distributed authority over the root server system. ICANN's Board should support it.
[Editor's note: Maxwell graduate student Sonia Arenaza joins us today as a guest IGP blogger. Sonia is working towards a degree in International Relations and Public Administration, with a concentration in International Development and Information Technology for Development. After graduating from the Entrepreneurship Development Institute in India, the Business School of the Peruvian Pacific University, and from the Systems Engineering School of the Peruvian National Engineering University, Sonia worked as a Strategic Planning Manager at the General Secretariat of the Andean Community, from 2004 to 2006; and as an Information Technology Project Leader at ACCION International where she worked in the microfinance fields for developing countries, from 2002 to 2004. In addition she worked as a microfinance and information technology professor in Peruvian and Bolivian universities. She speaks Spanish, English and French.]
The Second IGF meeting held in Rio raised , in one of its workshops on last November 13th, a latent and to-date crucial issue, a Development Agenda for Internet Governance.
Panelists and participants discussed about the importance of considering a development perspective into internet governance mechanisms, institutions, principles and initiatives; and also offered a brainstorming of possible approaching ways. Some of those ideas were to follow a top-down approach; to analyze the impact on development some controversial issues of internet governance such as freedom of expression, privacy, intellectual property among others have on development, and the way they interact to each other; to take into account existing differences in markets, decision-making processes and regions; to consider development as a cross-cutting issue among the Internet Governance themes -access, openness, diversity and security- and as a way to evaluate their performance; to take into account not only implementing businesses practices in the community but also empowering ICT to ordinary people because they know how to use it for development and reducing poverty; and last but not least to build a development agenda by the aggregation of related issues or by a horizontal approach considering how key Internet Governance principles of multilateralism, transparency and democracy impact on development.
ICANN has announced some kind of an agreement with the Internet Systems Consortium, operator of the F root server complex. We can’t say much about it yet, because the actual agreement hasn’t been published, and the agreement hasn’t been ratified by either organization’s Board. But any formalized agreement would represent...