Friday, February 18, 2005

CDT on ICANN and Internet Governance

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The Center for Democracy & Technology's Michael Steffen provides a very rough outline of his comments at yesterday's ICANN panel.

"Why Civil Society Should Support Good Private-Sector Governance (And What Good Means)."

1. Who we are: CDT and our involvement in ICANN, Internet standards bodies, and through GIPI
2. The Internet truly is an revolutionary place. The existence of the open Internet has been a great value for civil society--and its continued success should be our chief priority in this context.
3. The Internet's development has been premised on the lack of centralized gatekeepers to free expression and innovation.
4. (There are real, significant challenges to making sure access to this open, empowering medium is as broad as possible: e.g. funding, telecom buildout, multilingualism. Many of these are tightly connected with national telecom policy. But this is not an ICANN issue.)
5. This Internet that is of such value to us in civil society grew so quickly in a diverse, decentralized governance context.
6. A lot of the governance in this space has remained essentially private--in large part because it was thought that private mechanisms, well designed, were best suited to preserving this open, decentralized, free medium, and that in many ways governmental regulatory bodies or intergovernmental bodies were ill suited to working and being accountable in such a rapidly evolving space.
7. This argument, in turn, grows largely out of the principles of governance that have been well articulated by civil society over the last week: openness, transparency, responsiveness, accountability, multi-stakeholderism, etc.
8. Given this, what should civil society want to see out of the WGIG report?
a. An articulation and affirmance of these standards.
b. Some discussion of how they apply to the array of Internet governance contexts and mechanisms, and a discussion of how those mechanisms measure up.This should include standards bodies like the IETF, private coordination bodies like ICANN, intergovernmental bodies like the ITU, and so on. I think such an evaluation would rightly point out real problems in ICANN--and how it has often failed to live up to the original vision on which it was founded--but in the context of applying the same standards to intergovernmental bodies, for example, which are often likely to be less transparent, open, accessible, multi-stakeholder, accountable, and so on.

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