The internet’s main governing body for the control of domain names has indicated a further shift away from its US roots as it gears up for a London meeting in December to discuss internet governance.
In a press conference held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, chief executive of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) Fadi Chehadé publicly stated that the internet governance debate, while brought to public attention by the Snowden revelations, is nothing new and has been going on for years within Icann.
Chehadé said that “it has always been envisaged, including written into the founding agreements, that the special relationship between Icann and US government will become more global in the future, and less focused on one government. So there’s nothing new here.”
‘The solution is not to replace one government with another’
Chehadé went to great lengths to express that the internet governance issue would not be rushed and that a transition away from a single government link is the way forward.
“The solution is not to replace one government with another. Our number one priority is security, stability and resiliency, and that will never be compromised by rushing.
“We will do it properly, we’re not going to take any aspect of internet governance in a blasé way,” he said.
That’s not to say the Snowden revelations have not had an impact on Icann’s “ecosystem”. Chehadé said it was of paramount importance that Icann and global internet governance was “headed to a future where all people, governments, businesses, civil society, technical organisations to feel that together they have an equal footing,” what Icann calls a multi-stakeholder model where everyone who uses the internet has an input into how it is governed.
By moving meetings around the world, in this case to Argentina, Icann is specifically aiming for more geographic diversity within the greater internet conversation, something it is promoting with its new generic top-level domain (gTLDs) – the final part of the internet address that would normally be “.com”, “.co.uk”, “.org” or similar. New gTLDs include “.TECHNOLOGY”, “.LIGHTING” and many others, including gTLDs in Arabic, Cyrillic, Chinese and other non-Roman languages.
‘Trust in global internet has been punctured’
Tensions between Brazil and the US have been high since the Snowdon revelations. President Dilma Rousseff has publicly accused the US of breaching international law, and announced plans for a national secure email service, an alternative internet infrastructure that will mean data cables are not routed through US soil, and updates to the marco civil legislative bill to tighten domestic cybersecurity.
After a meeting with Rousseff this month that saw Brazil agreeing to host a summit on internet governance in Rio in April 2014, Chehadé said, “the trust in the global internet has been punctured. Now it’s time to restore this trust through leadership and institutions that can make that happen.”
However, today Chehadé dismissed suggestions that the Brazil meeting is purely at the behest of Rousseff, angered over pervasive surveillance by the US government, reiterating that internet governance has been on Icann’s agenda for years.
Chehadé stressed that the meeting currently underway in Buenos Aires is will not see any new ratifications or directives, and that it is purely designed to get attendees talking about the issues of gTLDs and internet governance ahead of next year’s meetings.
• Brazil leads the charge to create an alternative internet infrastructure over NSA furore that has roots in US internet imperialism