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ISOC hires Washington insider as new CEO

Category : Internet governance ยท by Dec 19th, 2013

Kathy Brown pulls key Internet organization closer to US government

kathy-brownThe Internet Society has hired Washington insider Kathryn Brown as its new CEO.

Brown is Verizon’s public policy expert and has worked for the company for more than a decade. While not well known within the Internet community, she is highly respected within DC and telecoms policy circles.

Prior to Verizon, Kathy worked for telecoms law firm Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, now Wilmer and Hale. And before that she worked for two US government departments: the FCC and NTIA.

In the past year, she has built a public profile on Internet governance issues, appearing on a number of panels at global conferences. She has also served on the advisory council of the Public Interest Registry – the company created by ISOC to run the .org Internet top-level domain.

While no one will doubt Brown’s talents, the choice of someone so intricately associated with the US government and telecoms industry goes against the prevailing mood in Internet circles where the Snowden/NSA revelations have led to calls for Internet organizations to move away from Washington and US influence.

A statement signed by many of the groups that oversee Internet infrastructure earlier this year, including the Internet Society (ISOC), expressed “strong concern over the undermining of the trust and confidence of Internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance” and made repeated mentions of the need to adopt a global outlook. That statement was widely seen as an effort by Internet organizations to distance themselves from the US government.

In that light, the decision by ISOC’s Board to hire a Washington insider will be seen by many as a lost opportunity to move the organization beyond the Beltway (ISOC is headquartered in Virginia and is chartered as a Washington DC non-profit).

The position of CEO at the $35 million-a-year organization, which is dedicated to promoting an open Internet, was opened up in July when current head Lynn St Amour said she was stepping down in February 2014 after 13 years in the job.

Read the formal announcement on hiring Brown as CEO.

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