A memo from the US government dated January 23, 2012, makes it clear that the ITU World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) to be held in Dubai this December poses little threat of a “takeover” of the Internet by intergovernmental institutions.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its defeat call attention to a delicious irony in public discourse on Internet governance. Even those who don’t want the Internet to be an exception from traditional forms of regulation and law are forced to admit that something new and exceptional must be done to bring it under control. Reinforcing the irony, these attempts by the anti-exceptionalists to subordinate the Internet to established institutions immediately locks them into conflict with a highly mobilized, highly transnational community of Internet users and service providers who vow to resist those controls. The resistance comes precisely because the mobilized community believes that the controls threaten to fundamentally alter its status as an open, innovative and – dare we say it – exceptional space. In other words, we are all Internet exceptionalists now.
The January 5 issue of BNA’s Bankruptcy Law Reporter (24 BBLR 32) contains a remarkable article by the attorneys for the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN). It poses as a neutral, informative article about how trustees for firms entering bankruptcy court can “obtain the highest value” for their Internet Protocol address blocks when they are put up for sale. But one should be cautious of free legal advice to third parties when it is offered by lawyers hired by ARIN and keenly attuned to its organizational self-interest. The advice will not help IP sellers maximize their value; it is designed, instead to help ARIN preserve its monopoly on brokering the transfer market.
National Public Radio in the U.S. did a feature piece on ICANN, presumably because January 12 is the day it starts its program to open up the domain name space to hundreds of new top level names. Yet what should have been a story about the pros and cons of new TLDs and ICANN’s political struggles with U.S.-based intellectual property interests and the legislators they influenced, became yet another story about…wait for it… how the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is threatening to take over the Internet!