NPR concluded yesterday a series on “the newest arena of international conflict – cyberspace.” To be honest, it was very gratifying to hear major media bringing the vitally important topic of global Internet governance to a wider audience. By and large it was good reporting, highlighting the increasing contention as national governments world-wide struggle with the ramifications of a global communications network.
One point they missed though was that “global Internet governance stands…neutral, apolitical, and largely hands off [from government interference today].” This is simply incorrect. Not to belabor a point, but it is exactly the unilateral control exercised by a single government (the United States) which resulted in not only the Chinese (which, of course, was cast in the segment as the dark side), but other powerful governments (including Russia, Brazil, India and others), to demand closer examination of the management of critical Internet resources several years ago. And as readers of IGP Blog know, this political debate has been ongoing in the UN's Internet Governance Forum and elsewhere for some time, it's just that some interests would (naturally) prefer the existing governing institutions to remain unexamined critically.
In an example of the continuing politics, a Brazilian delegate stated last fall, that despite remarkable progress in discussions at the IGF and the oversight of ICANN by the USG, it “did not change the unilateral and exclusive nature of controls over the root directory of the domain name system [DNS]” and that, “issues of voice and participation of Governments and multilateral organizations matters relating to the Internet governance regime remain unresolved.”