Washington – As the US delegation prepares for NetMundial next week in Sao Paulo, many other attendees from around the world are welcoming the recent news about the US Government’s progress in transitioning ICANN functions to multistakeholder venues where participants from all continents are welcome. Legacy US oversight of the root server and domain name housekeeping functions for the global Internet had been a sticking point for some freedom loving and leaning countries, but now that concern has eased somewhat, and discussions in Brazil will be based on improved trust. We might have lost the confidence of even some of the EU Member States without ICANN’s announcement, and the African Union has put out a supportive statement, so the announcement about lessening US control was timely indeed.
The rumbles of dissention in the past week from within the U.S. Congress merely reflect a healthy fear of the unknown, given the importance of the Internet to modern economies and to all of our daily lives. Fortunately, ICANN and other groups like the Internet Engineering Task Force operate by consensus and no rogue nation or group of Internet Restricting Countries can swoop in and take over. That’s by design.
Next, there must be a larger conversation around proposed basic principles to guide future Internet governance. Officials from developing countries will want to have a voice in that conversation and will want to learn from the Internet experts of industrialized countries whom they trust and with whom they enjoy a natural affinity. Many technologically advanced democracies will just have to respect the need of others to be introduced and welcomed to the multistakeholder processes that we have relied on for more than a decade now. Capacity building is essential.
From the private sector in the West, we all would do well to offer developing countries technical assistance related to the Internet and information about mutual international legal assistance mechanisms, so that they may “grow their own” business and civil society communities that are better equipped to participate in global multistakeholder processes. Infrastructure for connectivity and cybersecurity are just two of the serious legitimate network issues that must be addressed effectively everywhere if sustainable global Internet freedom is our goal.