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Saturday, November 16. 2013
Effective immediately, Wolfgang Kleinwächter will replace Judith Duavit Vazquez, who resigned from the ICANN Board last month.
Kleinwächter will be thrown in at the deep end this week, with the 48th ICANN International meeting officially opening in Argentina on Monday November 18.
Kleinwächter was selected by the 2013 Nominating Committee, who had to reconvene to handle this extremely rare occurrence that is the resignation of a serving ICANN Board member.
Just as it had done for its previous selections, announced in early September, the 2013 NomCom came together and worked hard through weekly meetings and a tight selection timeline to produce a collegial result and ensure the ICANN Board did not have to face a vacant seat in Argentina.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's been a pleasure and honor to work with this NomCom. I sincerely believe the 2013 Committee re-invented the NomCom process to such an extent that, after a very difficult 2012, the principle of an independent leadership position election mechanism within the all-important Internet governance vehicle that is ICANN, is alive and well today.
It is with great pride that I now travel to Argentina to witness the conclusion of the 2013 NomCom term and take up my position on the 2014 NomCom leadership team as Chair Elect. The 2013 leadership team will be a tough act to follow. Fortunately, two of them, 2013 Chair Yrjö Lansipuro and Chair Elect Cheryl Langdon-Orr will continue on that team, respectively as Associate Chair and Chair. The 2013 Associate Chair Adam Peake was also a valuable contributor to this year's process and will be sorely missed.
Wednesday, October 23. 2013
Given the post-Prism political climate, it should come as no surprise that the 8th edition of the UN-initiated Internet Governance Forum(IGF), currently happening in Bali (Indonesia), is showing record-braking attendance with more than 2,000 delegates.
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé explains the "Brazilian meeting" to a packed room at the Bali IGF. Photo SVGC.
With a byline of "building bridges: enhancing multistakeholder cooperation for growth and sustainable development", the meeting's main theme is clearly the need to evolve the current model for Internet Governance. But not quite everyone has the same view on exactly how that should happen. The Day 1 Opening Ceremony speeches provided an interesting mix of calls for change, and warnings against the cure being worse than the disease.
Brazil has long been publicly displeased with a perceived dominance of US-control over Internet Governance and no-one was too surprised to hear the country's Minister of Communications Paolo Bernado Silva take the floor during the October 22 Opening Ceremony to call for a change to this model. In fact, the Minister confirmed that the central theme of a meeting his country is organising in the first half of 2014 would be the need to develop a new model for Internet Governance.
More surprising to many was ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé picking up on the same theme. Chehadé has caused many an eyebrow to raise when he recently met with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and announced the Brazil meeting. "The trust in the global Internet has been punctured and now it’s time to restore this trust through leadership and institutions that can make that happen," Chehadé was quoted as saying at the time of the summit announcement.
Chehadé continued on this theme during the IGF Opening Ceremony, where he called for all governments to be placed on an equal footing in Internet Governance, whilst being careful to caution against exclusive governmental control by saying everyone must be included. "In my home continent of Africa we have a saying," Chehadé said in closing his IGF Opening Ceremony remarks. "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. So let’s go together."
During a packed ICANN briefing on recent events held today, Day 2, of the Bali IGF, Board member Chris Disspain gave further insight into ICANN's current strategy. "Since the WCIT and the events of the last few weeks, the "coalition of the willing" who have been looking after the multi-stakeholder model has been weakened. To the point there is now a real risk of the governance of the Internet falling into governmental control."
ICANN's leadership is clearly worried about the coming year. "There are many important meetings to come," Disspain continued. "The plenipot and the WSIS+10 for example. Yet today we don't have an alternative to offer, so there is increasing worry that some Internet Governance functions will fall to government oversight."
ICANN's answer: a coalition of thought leaders to work on Internet Governance, of which the Brazil meeting would be just one step on the road to finding solutions to stay the perceived risk that Internet Governance issues would end up in the hands of governments.
Speaking after Disspain, ICANN CEO Chehadé put the Brazil meeting in the wider context of this overall goal. "This is not a "Brazil meeting", it's "a" meeting. Brazil has told us they don't want it to be about them or ICANN, it's not about finding solutions, it's about setting the framework for doing so. It will be a truly multistakeholder meeting, with a multistakeholder steering committee where Brazil and maybe 3 or 4 other organising countries will be involved, attended by a multistakeholder audience."
Chehadé said the meeting would probably happen in the first week of May 2014 and that the exact date and meeting details would be announced by November 11.
Monday, October 14. 2013
Next week representatives of the private and business sectors, civil society, academia, governments and the technical community will converge on Bali, Indonesia, for the Internet Governance Forum.
The 2013 IGF is bound to feature intense discussions on topics such as the recent Prism US Internet monitoring program and possible fallout from that scandal, including a renewed push towards national oversight and global Internet fragmentation.
European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes has just launched a public consultation on Internet governance in which the after-effects of the Prism surveillance program can be clearly felt. "It is even more important now that we agree on common principles for Internet governance, and how decisions are made in all Internet-related matters," says Kroes on her EC blog.
In this climate, as a public forum where any party can freely express its views, the IGF is more important than ever. As the recent Montevideo statement showed, strong signals supporting the integrity of the Internet we currently know and love are needed now more than ever.
But beyond Prism, the list of workshops for Bali is impressive, with huge diversity of topics, from sexual rights in Indonesia to protecting people's right to blog.
I will be participating in two workshops.
The first, workshop 249 on Wednesday October 23 from 16:30 to 18:00 in room 8 (Kintamani 7), will be looking at civil society and ICANN's multiskateholderism with the GNSO serving as case study.
The second, workshop 253 On Thursday October 24 from 11:00 to 12:30 in room 10 (Kintamani 6), is on the "closed" generic debate that ICANN's new gTLD program has generated.
Tuesday, April 9. 2013
Attending the 46th ICANN International meeting in Beijing China, I had a rare and privileged opportunity to take part in the Youth & Children Forum as a "mentor" to a group of students interested in learning more about Internet governance.
It's a great initiative because if the unique governance model that is ICANN is to thrive, getting the younger generations involved early is key.
Organised by NetMission, a youth program supported by the DotAsia registry, the Forum was organised as a 5-day learning opportunity dedicated to getting youth engaged in Internet governance work and issues. The idea is to explore with them ways in which they can learn about ICANN and be future participants in its governance processes.
Small groups of Forum participants were assigned to each mentor. Around ten of them followed me for an afternoon of ICANN meetings, including a Nominating Committee outreach meeting and some Registrar Accreditation Agreement discussion.
Hope that didn't put them off ICANN completely!
The finale of this great initiative was a mock ICANN Board meeting in which the Forum participants will by role-playing different stakeholders. The Forum bought together almost 60 participants for the ICANN Beijing meeting.
Here's the Forum's Facebook page
Monday, December 17. 2012
This was never part of the plan. Going into the Dubai World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) two weeks ago, there was optimism aplenty.
After weeks of online and media campaigning, proponents of a free Internet had managed to scare everyone into thinking that WCIT was tantamount to digital Armageddon. This had the effect of defusing the conference before it even started, or so it seemed…
A fortnight later, the mood isn't so positive. International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Member States are split, bringing everyone back to the bad old days of a two-hemisphere planet, one side led by Russia, the other by the US.
Read the rest at CircleID.
Friday, August 3. 2012
In Internet governance circles, the hot topic of the moment is WCIT, an acronym pronounced "wicket" which obviously doesn't have anything to do with the English game of cricket's equivalent of a goal post.
WCIT stands for "world conference on international telecommunications" and is being organised in Dubai in December by the ITU, the UN's International Telecommunication Union. The conference aims to review the ITRs or International Telecommunications Regulations – the set of international principles on handling voice, data and video traffic.
These regulations were last reviewed in 1988, 10 years before another body that is expected to get quite a few mentions at the WCIT conference was created: ICANN. It's handling of the technical coordination of the Internet's naming and addressing systems, and the protocols that go along with them, has long irked governments. And if documents published by the deliciously named wcitleaks.org are anything to go by, some are preparing to argue that they should be in charge.
Due to the ITU's notorious lack of transparency (country submissions to the WCIT are not published for example) it is difficult to ascertain what governments would really like, unless they themselves choose to come out and say so. But it appears Russia intends to suggest that the ITU could be more involved in the regulating of Internet addresses. China is apparently on the same wavelength, something which probably comes as no surprise but should cause worry to proponents of free speech considering both country's appalling stance towards the conflict in Syria. India apparently also agrees with Russia.
But the US is firmly against. America has been a strong supporter of the free, open, bottom-up governance model espoused by ICANN and does not wish to see the Internet become less free or less open. "We will not support any effort to broaden the scope of the ITRs to facilitate any censorship of content or blocking the free flow of information and ideas," says the US's U.S. Head of Delegation for the WCIT. "The United States also believes that the existing multi-stakeholder institutions, incorporating industry and civil society, have functioned effectively and will continue to ensure the health and growth of the Internet and all of its benefits."
Fortunately, the US stance should be enough to stop governments such as Russia or China from gaining more control over the Internet through wide-ranging changes to the ITRs. ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré has been quoted as saying that "whatever one single country does not accept will not pass".
In this case, let's hope he's right.
Tuesday, October 5. 2010
The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) will not be passed.
Supporters of the bill ran out of time to put it before Congress and must now wait until after the US mid-term elections, at the very least.
Opponents of the bill remain cautious however. "Make no mistake (…) this bill will be back soon enough, and Congress will again need to hear from concerned citizens like you," wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation on its website in a blog post entitled "Victory: Internet Censorship Bill is Delayed".
Some fear the bill would pass easily if put before Congress as both sides of the American political landscape seem to be in favour of legislation of this kind.
Friday, October 1. 2010
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sent the US Senate Judiciary Committee a letter opposing the proposed Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA).
Here are a couple of excerpts from the letter.
"We, the undersigned, have played various parts in building a network called the Internet. We wrote and debugged the software; we defined the standards and protocols that talk over that network. Many of us invented parts of it. We're just a little proud of the social and economic benefits that our project, the Internet, has brought with it."
"If enacted, this legislation will risk fragmenting the Internet's global domain name system (DNS), create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure."
The full letter can be read here.
Friday, September 17. 2010
Today (September 17) is the last day of the 5th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting held in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. Previous meetings have been held yearly, starting in Athens in 2006 and then moving on to Rio, Hyderabad and Sharm El Sheikh. This meeting is the last in the current IGF schedule (although it appears a new 5-year round of meetings is set to be announced).
So what happened in Vilnius? Well I wasn't there so I'm obviously not in any position to answer that question, but according to people who were, not much. To be fair, the IGF isn't supposed to be anything other than a discussion forum, so the fact that nothing concrete comes out of the 4 days of meetings isn't surprising in itself. It's just that as ever, the discussions sound more partisan than constructive.
There's been the usual "ICANN vs governments" debate, with ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom defending his organisation's multistakeholder model. Several prominent members of the ICANN community were in attendance and spreading the good word, including Chairman of the Board Peter Dengate Thrush, newly nominated Board member (and ex French representative to the GAC) Bertrand de la Chapelle and GNSO Council Chair Chuck Gomes.
For an entertaining and offbeat look at what happened during the IGF in Vilnius, I recommend you have a gander at ex ICANN Manager of public participation Kieren McCarthy's entertainingly irreverent blog posts on the subject.
Thursday, September 16. 2010
One of the highlights of the Internet governance annual calendar, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is currently underway in Vilnius. As one of the attendees, ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom warned against the dangers of attempts by governments to control the Internet and exclude all the other parties that have made the Web a dynamic and fast-evolving medium.
ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom is intent on defending the Internet's multistakeholder governance model. INDOM photo.
If the Internet's governance was to be placed under the sole responsibility of the world's governments, Beckstrom posited during the UN-supported IGF, then the innovative nature of the Web could be in danger.
"Decisions on its future should reflect the widest possible range of views and the wisdom of the entire world community, not just governmental organizations," Beckstrom was quoted as saying.
I must confess to being in full agreement.
Monday, February 1. 2010
Chanced upon a little beauty of an article about how the US invented and paid for the Internet and should therefore keep controlling it forever.
Now I realise that the author's views aren't shared by everyone in the States. The site on which the article is being run is obviously slightly Republican friendly to say the least, and the article's "foreigners are going to take our Internet away from us" diatribe is obviously more political than anything else. Still, I can't help but be worried when the article's author, Bradley A. Blakeman, is an ex American President's deputy assistant and now teaches politics at a major US university.
With credentials like that, some people might actually believe untruths like "the Internet was invented by America". That's sad, because while there's no doubt Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn are the Net's fathers, what about its uncles? People like Frenchman Louis Pouzin, who is credited by both Cerf and Kahn as having laid the foundations for the Internet's cornerstone: the TCP/IP protocol.
And let's not forget that without Brit Tim Berners-Lee, I wouldn't have even been able to read Blakeman's fascinating piece of propaganda on a formatted webpage. At CERN (a European research institute located in Switzerland), Berners-Lee invented the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (http) and the Hypertext Markpup Language (html), two crucial parts of the true multimedia experience that is today's Internet.
Most sane, rational people realise that great enterprises like the Internet aren't built by a single person or nation. That would be like crediting all research and scientific progress made on AIDS to France because Luc Montagnier discovered HIV about 5 seconds before American Robert Gallo did.
But Blakeman doesn't seem to share the view that the Internet belongs to everyone. He argues that the Obama administration has "surrendered the Internet to foreign powers", that there is "no better country to protect the Internet than the United States" because he says "We invented it, and we paid for the research and implementation that made it possible. We are the freest most tolerant nation on earth..."
As I said, I'm worried. It's clear that the ICANN community still has its work cut out to ensure a truly global oversight of the Internet, if it has to fight such narrow minded views from the nation that still technically controls the Internet today.
Read the article here.
Tuesday, November 24. 2009
UK registry Nominet is warning against government regulation of the domain name industry.
A Digital Economy Bill proposed by the UK's House of Lords would give the government the power to, in effect, seize a registry and place it under direct governmental control in the case of registry failure.
Nominet has written to its members (the registrars) asking them to take part in a consultation and backing the registry's proposals to maintain the self-regulatory model under which Nominet and other UK-based registries work.
"There are two key issues at stake: self-regulation and public purpose," says Nominet Chairman Bob Gilbert in an email to members. "We (…) need more of you to actively show your support for Nominet and a self-regulated domain name industry. Make your voice heard!"
"We believe the domain name industry should continue to be self-regulated," Gilbert goes on to explain. "It has served members well up until now and we believe it will do so in the future too. On behalf of your Board, I urge you to get involved with this consultation so that together we can shape the future of Nominet and the domain name industry in the UK."
Tuesday, August 18. 2009
In a letter dated August 4, the US Congress is asking for exactly the opposite to what ICANN and the rest of the world wants. Instead of allowing ICANN to strive towards complete independence and to become a truly global governing body, Congress would like to see it permanently placed under the US government's control.
"Rather than replacing the JPA with additional JPAs or Memoranda of Understanding that expire every few years, we believe the time has come for a permanent instrument to which ICANN and the Department of Commerce are co-signatories," says Congress.
The June 4 hearing during which ICANN CEO Paul Twomey faced a grilling by congressmen as he requested an end to the JPA is referenced in the letter, which also lists a series of points the new contract should address.
Included in those are a commitment for ICANN to stay headquartered in the US and the assurance that WHOIS will remain publicly accessible and display complete registrant information. This last request seems particularly out-of-phase with existing local privacy and date protection laws which, outside the US, may require WHOIS databases to display only partial registrant information.
Although ICANN does not legally have any obligation to bow to Congress' demands, an outright end to the JPA (set to expire on September 30, 2009), without any kind of transitional contract to replace it, is looking increasingly unlikely.
Thursday, July 30. 2009
The Wall Street Journal is running a fascinating opinion piece about the possible impact of new gTLDs and IDNs. Author L. Gordon Crovitz posits that multiplying TLDs and languages on the Net may make it easier for authoritarian governments to attempt to stifle free-speech and meddle in what the article says is currently a "happy state of affairs" in which "one of the marvels of the Internet is that it is self-governing, with private groups of engineers and technology companies doing their best to keep it up and running without political interference."
I fully agree with what I think is a very good summary of why the ICANN system of governance suits the Internet to a tee. Lets not forget, after all, that both ICANN and the Internet are forays into what only a few years ago was just unknown territory. I think it's safe to say there's never been a medium like the Internet, and there's never been a body of governance like ICANN. Think what went before and you're bound to get the point: telex, print newspapers, cassette tapes and VHS for the Internet… the UN for ICANN.
So although the WSJ article seems right on the money when it describes a pioneering model of governance which shields the Internet from the ravages of too much government intervention, I'm not sure I get the link being made to new TLDs and IDNs. ICANN, says the WSJ, "plans to open the door to many new Web addresses and to give better access to non-English-language users." This, we are told, "could result in authoritarian governments insisting on more influence."
Continue reading "Do new TLDs and IDNs mean tighter government control?"
Thursday, May 14. 2009
At the Internet Governance Forum consultations currently going on in Geneva, the Chinese delegation has voiced its opposition to a 5 year extension of the IGF.
"When it comes to Internet governance, developing country points of view are not sufficiently reflected in the discussions," China's representative is quoted as saying by Milton Mueller on the IGP website. "This is why we don't agree that the IGF should continue its mandate after the 5 years are up. So we repeat that the delegation of China does not agree with extending the mission of the IGF beyond the 5 years. We feel that after the 5 years are up, we would need to look at the results that have been achieved. And we need, then, to launch into an intergovernmental discussion."
I have to admit to being in full agreement with the Chinese on this. Their approach seems both pragmatic and logical. The UN tends to have a natural tendency to produce entities that have no clear endgame in sight and where no-one really questions the fact that no goals are being reached (or have even been set for that matter).
But the flip side of this coin is China's insistence that an "intergovernmental discussion" replace the IGF. Is that a way of throwing the UN wrench back into the ICANN slash Internet governance works?