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Pressure piles on US government to end Net role

Category : Internet governance · by Jul 20th, 2006

Less than a week after 87 percent of Net experts went out of their way to tell the US government that it needs to internationalise its role as overall authority for the Internet root, another shot has been fired over its boughs by two insiders.

A paper [pdf] put out by Becky Burr and Marilyn Cade pulls no punches when it states that it provides a “concrete pathway for eliminating one of the most sources of contention in the ICANN debate – the United States’ retain, exclusive and unilateral authority over the Internet’s authoritative root”.

In case you don’t know Becky Burr is the woman that originally wrote most of ICANN’s founding Memorandum of Understanding back in 1998 when she was a DoC lawyer. And Marilyn Cade has been a fundamental cog and powerbroker in ICANN since its inception to the extent that she is on Paul Twomey’s exclusive and secretive President’s Strategy Committee.

The paper makes four arguments which it “urges” the US government to follow. I will summarise them below, but do check out the paper itself here.

  1. Make a statement saying it will not use its authority to undermine any ICANN decisions, and that it will make VeriSign make changes to the A root in 14 days.
  2. Set up an international working group to take over its role which will comprise top-level government officials from across the world (not the existing GAC members, it suggests)and ICANN officials. It then suggests the powers and role this group might have.
  3. Restate and provide assistance in getting back to the initial ICANN principles where private ownership is respected and ICANN’s technical role is limited
  4. Force some accountability onto ICANN by making it review its procedures and appeals mechanisms

Speaking from a personal perspective, I have to give this paper some serious thought as to where the potential future problems could be, but my gut feeling is that it deals with everyone’s concerns and represents a pragmatic way out of the ever-looming problem of how the USG and ICANN work and interact.

Governments have to have a final-say role – but it has to kept specific and it has to be kept sharp (i.e. have no way to endlessly delay an issue). Something similar to the new model that is being touted for the UN’s Security Council. At the same time, private ownership has to be respected and strengthened because without that, the Internet would quickly descend into power politics and nothing would get done.

But ICANN can only be given this role if it is forced to build decent accountability and appeals processes, as well as allow more representation from everyday Internet users.

We shall see what everyone else makes of this, but I see that the Internet Governance Project is already smiling on it.

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[…] What strikes me as really odd is this consciously blinkered perspective that says it is either ICANN or it is the UN. Europe, Australasia and chunk of Asia are already agreed on the UN not taking charge and have talked about creating a new flexible international model for ICANN to slot into. Even the DoC lawyer that created ICANN, Becky Burr, drew up a model that kept ICANN’s job out of the UN but help reduce the risk of a split root. […]

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