The controversial NetMundial Initiative (NMI) – an effort by various countries and organizations to steer the internet – may be beyond saving after a second series of rejections. This time it’s been snubbed by the business world and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) today published a damning letter [PDF] to the initiative’s organizers telling them it “opposes the NMI as established, conceived, and structured.”
Mirroring an earlier rejection letter from the Internet Society, ICC BASIS said that the program “was not multistakeholder” and “appears to be largely conceived through closed conversations with only a few stakeholders present.”
It continues: “Our members also have serious concerns with the lack of clarity regarding the rules of procedure for the actual work of the NMI. With this in mind, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) BASIS shares the views of ISOC and other stakeholders and cannot endorse the NMI resulting from this process of formation or current form and structure.”
Adding to its woes, the Internet Governance Forum – one of the organizations initially offered a “permanent seat” on the initiative’s “coordination council” – refused to appoint a representative to the council over concerns that the program would encroach into its remit.
Crash team! Crash team!
The rejections come a day after the NetMundial Initiative’s organizers attempted to save the program by removing the “permanent seats” part of its plan where they and two other groups would hold five of the 25 seats. It portrayed the U-turn as having listened to stakeholders, but it rapidly became clear that the organizers intended to award themselves the seats regardless and would only look at revisiting the situation in a year’s time.
One of the organizers also put out a second statement offering “further clarifications” over its goals and plans. The calculated backtracking proved insufficient, however.
Having been rejected by the Internet Society, boycotted by one arm of civil society and begrudgingly acknowledged by another arm, and having proved so controversial that mention of its namesake conference in a statement to a recent conference was expunged just in case it was mistakingly connected, it is going to be very difficult for the program to recover.
With just over a week left for nominations to the 20 council seats, only 16 people have so far put themselves forward: one less than a day ago, indicating that people have started withdrawing their names.
Most damagingly, the actual claimed purpose of the initiative – to find solutions to internet governance issues – has so far received just two proposals and ideas. Yesterday there were three, indicating an active withdrawal of already minimal engagement in the program.
It’s all about control
The collapse of the initiative will comes as a significant personal embarrassment to ICANN’s CEO Fadi Chehade who has spearheaded efforts for the past six months. Chehade and his team have repeatedly tried to skirt around the internet community’s concerns while retaining a central controlling role.
Ultimately it is that determination to remain in control while asserting the opposite that has led to the NetMundial Initiative’s unraveling. ICANN’s efforts to expand in the broader sphere of internet governance appears to have been a spectacular failure. ®