In multistakeholder settings, national governments often claim that they should have special status because they represent “the public interest” in policy deliberations. But how true is that claim? Do governments actually intervene in these processes with a judicious, impartial eye toward policy solutions that are the best for everyone? Or do they tilt the scales toward the stakeholder group that lobbies them most aggressively and is most likely to give their bosses campaign contributions?
A recent incident in ICANN provides some interesting clues as to how governments really work. We now know that ICANN’s Governmental Advisory committee (GAC) shared a draft policy statement with only one stakeholder group in the GNSO – the trademark lobby – and kept all the other stakeholder groups out of the loop. the incident holds important lessons for those with the naive view that governments are “just another stakeholder” in multistakeholder processes.
In the 4th paper of our series analyzing the European Commission papers on ICANN, we examine their paper on country code top level domains (ccTLDs). As usual, the EC’s primary concern is not the interest of the Internet-using public or the health and vitality of the internet, but the privileges and powers of itself and its member governments.
On September 12 China, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan released a Resolution for the UN General Assembly entitled “International code of conduct for information security.” The resolution proposes a voluntary 12 point code of conduct based on “the need to prevent the potential use of information and communication technologies for purposes that are inconsistent with the objectives of maintaining international stability and security and may adversely affect the integrity of the infrastructure within States…” The Code seems to be intended to preserve and protect national sovereignty in information and communication.
On the 1st and 2nd of September in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian foreign relations ministry, the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) and the Center for Technology & Society (CTS/FGV) held what they called a “Seminar” on Global Internet Governance. But while “seminar” has an educational, even academic ring to it, this event was more than that. It was actually a preparatory conference for a major political initiative regarding Internet control. On September 13, the three important developing country governments – India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) – who ran the conference issued a statement that shows they are openly abandoning the distributed model of the Internet and rejecting networked governance and even the new multi-stakeholder models of governmental involvement. Now they are openly pushing for a new coalition of states to control the Internet. If Sarkozy wanted to “civilize” the Internet, IBSA wants to intergovernmentalize it.
In ICANN Papers 3 and 4, the European Commission goes after ICANN’s finances and corporate governance. The first thing one notices is that both papers are brief and superficial; it’s as if the EC has only just discovered a topic that has been intensely debated since 1998, namely ICANN’s institutional design. It seems not to have read a single serious paper about it. The poor results show why one should not make policy the way the EC has in this case: in isolation, in anger and without any public consultation.
That was the eye-catching subject line in a recent note from Randy Bush to the North American Network Operators Group (NANOG) about secure Border Gateway Protocol (S-BGP). His note critiqued a paper, Let the Market Drive Deployment: A Strategy for Transitioning to BGP Security, which was presented recently at SIGCOMM and NANOG meetings. The paper argued that under certain conditions, the transition to secure Internet routing could be driven by ISPs' incentive to increase their revenue-generating traffic. But as Bush noted, focusing on the economic incentives affecting ISP routing decisions in light of S-BGP may be missing the point. For him, the problem of secure routing deployment is grounded in economic and institutional issues around RPKI, something we identified in a paper earlier this year. While there certainly is a need to understand the micro-foundations surrounding adoption of Internet security standards like RPKI, S-BGP or DNSSEC, understanding and resolving the institutional problems must happen simultaneously.
You cannot have a global manager of the domain name system without some kind of agreed policy for adding new top level domains to the root. As a matter of economic policy, the DNS system should allow organizations to apply for new domains, and ideally the choices of users and consumers should determine the fate of new registries and new names. The new TLD program is also important because domain names are a form of expression on the Internet. Any policy that regulates the creation or operation of new domains based on their meaning or the content hosted under the names is, de facto, a form of globalized content regulation.
In its second ICANN paper, entitled “New gTLD Process,” the EC has taken the worst possible position on both of those aspects of new TLD policy. The EC Paper is radically inimical to freedom of expression and would erect huge, needless economic barriers to entry. It is also destructive institutionally: it proposes to subordinate Internet community self-governance to hierarchical control by nation-states and replace ICANN’s new gTLD policy with something concocted in secret by a handful of unelected bureaucrats. In this second installment of our analysis we deconstruct the EC's paper on new gTLDs.
The most notable thing about the EC Papers on ICANN is that they are designed to completely subordinate ICANN as an institution. We have not seen such a comprehensive attack by a government on ICANN since the World Summit on the Information Society. We now have no less than six papers from the EC attacking almost every aspect of ICANN, from the growth in its staff to the new TLD program to its handling of ccTLDs. Moreover, the papers are clearly targeted at influencing the US government’s redraft of the IANA contract in ways that would be deeply unhealthy. While ICANN could certainly use some reforms, this is nothing but a destructive act of revenge rather than a good-faith effort to reform the organization or improve its policies.
To support that assertion, IGP blog will go through the EC papers one by one, and show what a flimsy pretext they provide for what is, in reality, nothing more than an attempt by an intergovernmental entity to punish ICANN for not bowing to its will.
Not much. There are some interesting things about copyright. The leaked cables are from the foreign policy branches rather than the Commerce Department, so most of the juicy ICANN-related stuff is not in there. Searching for “ICANN” produces 39 documents, all but two of them unclassified. Some of the most interesting date back to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and the debate it sparked over US control of the root.