Multistakeholder Governance at Stake
The official U.S. Internet policy calls for preserving a free and open Internet under a global multistakeholder community encompassing Web registries, website owners, and nonprofit organizations. To that end, the U.S. Department of Commerce is working on an overhaul of the current system of allocating domain names through an advisory group of governments and public-sector stakeholders convened under the auspices of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
“The multistakeholder process is the best mechanism in which to discuss the Internet-related issues,” Sepulveda said. “The reason for that is the complexity of issues and a number of different sectors and types of people that it involves.”
A possible U.S. hand-off of ICANN oversight responsibilities in 2015—to an as-yet undetermined, multistakeholder-led entity— is only part of the transition of Internet governance to the multistakeholder Internet community.
“ICANN is not the Internet,” Sepulveda said. “Within Internet governance, there is a constellation of institutions and organizations that make the Internet possible.” These include both ICANN and the ITU, Sepulveda said.
“What is on the table is the contractual relationship between the U.S. Department of Commerce and ICANN for the operation of IANA [Internet Assigned Numbers Authority] functions in a manner consistent with the policy and practices dictated by the Internet community,” he said.
Russia, China, and some Arab nations are widely seen as favoring intergovernmental control facilitated by the ITU or the United Nations as a vehicle for legitimizing national measures to control Internet access by their citizens.
“We don’t believe that centralizing power that way would be either effective or correct,” Sepulveda said. “It would disenfranchise the community of people who have created the Internet and operate and work on it today.”