Please find here an interesting article by our member Stéphane Van Gelder, related to the first conference of the Internet & Jurisdiction project.
Click here to open the November 2016 newsletter.
Click here to open the October 2016 newsletter.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has requested the internet users to take part in ITEMS International’s independent review of its At-Large Community. The purpose of this independent review by ICANN is, to get inputs from the internet users via its survey running from 14 September to 21 October 2016. To partake in this survey, please click the link at the bottom of this page, or copy it to your device url.
The At-Large Community represents the interests of Internet users worldwide who contribute to the development of policies that influence the technical coordination of the Domain Name System (DNS), and we are keen to hear from all interested parties. Whether you are the representative of an At-Large structure (ALS), a regular participant in ICANN meetings, an ICANN insider, or a newcomer to the world of Internet governance, your opinion interests us!
On 1st October 2016, Assistant Secretary Lawrence E. Strickling, Administrator of the NTIA, made this statement: “The federal court in Galveston, Texas denied the plaintiffs’ application for declaratory and injunctive relief. As of October 1, 2016, the IANA functions contract has expired.” This chosen brevity adds strength to the NTIA statement, contrasting with the loosely worded and often misleading rhetoric of some Congressmen who were keen to oppose the Transition of Oversight of the IANA Functions. In the period leading up to the US Presidential Election (8 November 2016), this topic which would normally be a simple administrative task, became a pawn in a wider political game. The landmark ruling in Galveston by Judge George Hanks was a rebuttal of the civil action by the Attorneys General of Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas, who requested “temporary relief, enjoining and/or staying the expiration of the period of performance under the IANA Contract, which is currently set to expire on September 30, 2016”.
Having failed to win the Republican Primary, perhaps Senator Ted Cruz latched onto the IANA Contract as a way of staying in the limelight, with his sights on the 2020 Presidential Election. On 14 September, he and others organized a Senate hearing, to which they summoned witnesses including the Administrator of the NTIA. For an Internet user outside the USA, the title of the Hearing was misleading, “Protecting Internet Freedom: Implications of Ending U.S. Oversight of the Internet”: can the USA really claim to be the protector of Internet freedom, just a couple of years after Edward Snowden revealed the massive surveillance conducted by the US against its own citizens? And was the US really called upon to relinquish “oversight of the Internet”, rather than just “oversight of the IANA Functions”? Some of the remarks by Senators Ted Cruz and Chuck Grassley reveal a stark ignorance of how the global Internet operates, unless their feigned ignorance was intentionally misleading.
This Hearing did not support the claim that the Internet is US Property. On the contrary, the US GAO (General Accountability Office) stated, in its Decision dated 12 September 2016: “We find it is unlikely that either the domain name system or the authoritative root zone file (the “address book” for the top-level domain) is U.S. Government property under Article IV. We also find the Government may have certain data rights, and has limited intellectual and tangible property, all of which constitute Article IV property, but that property will be retained and not disposed of in connection with the transition. Finally, the Government has a contractual right to continued performance by the entities carrying out the IANA functions and related services. That right, which also constitutes U.S. Government property, would be disposed of if NTIA terminates the agreements rather than allowing them to expire, but NTIA has the requisite authority to dispose of this Government property interest.”
For an Internet user outside the USA, say in Europe, several lessons can be learned from the huge community effort for the Transition of Oversight of the IANA Functions, and battles waged against it:
- Motivation and role of the United States. The US Administration and the global Internet community proposed some form of “transition” as early as 1998. It has taken 18 years from formulation to implementation: what happened in between? Other priorities retained Washington’s attention: resisting the call by some parties for an inter-governmental solution to Internet governance, played out in ITU; a new phase of US withdrawal into their own world, perhaps a collective fatigue of the sole remaining superpower? However, and at least viewed from Europe, the proximate cause of Washington’s renewed advocacy in 2014 was the revelation by Edward Snowden, that same year, of the extent of US mass surveillance worldwide, as well as on its own citizens: the US had to recover its image as a trustworthy ally. This does not in any way diminish the merits of Larry Strickling and the NTIA team, the Chair, Board and Staff, of ICANN, the Chairs and members of the ICG, and all the contributors to the Transition of Oversight: this was a good example of what a multi-stakeholder community can achieve.
- Validation of the multi-stakeholder approach. The natural tendency of sovereign states to consider themselves as the sole legitimate stewards of the national interest, led them to believe that the same would apply in the novel area of Internet governance. It took many consultations to get capitals to even consider the presence of other categories alongside themselves: Tunis Agenda, IGF, other fora and events played a major role in helping governments to accept this way of dealing with global issues which, by definition, reach beyond national borders and jurisdictions. The Transition of Oversight of the IANA Functions is not a globalization of ICANN, nor of PTI (Post-Transition IANA), which both remain incorporated in the US. It is a limited but significant change in the way we approach the Internet as a collective ressource, for which there is a collective responsibility.
- Remaining questions:
- Will the next US Administration thoroughly implement the Transition of Oversight of the IANA Functions? It is no longer held hostage by some budget appropriation, the ruling by Judge George Hanks in Galveston is not being (cannot be?) appealed, and the Presidential campaign is treating US voters to so many other distractions. So, at this stage, there seems to be no administrative or political obstacle to implementation.
- One of many arguments in favour of the Transition of Oversight was that, WITHOUT it, we would draw dangerously close to a fragmentation of the Internet. While rejoicing that the IANA Contract was allowed to expire, we should remain conscious that geopolitics might some day favour a fragmentation of the Internet, for reasons not directly related to the Transition of Oversight. The worldwide Internet community must remain vigilant to any weakening of the features which make today’s Internet unique, reliable and global.
The Proposal to transfer (“transition”) the oversight of the IANA Functions, from the US Administration to a multi-stakeholder system with checks and balances, was approved by the NTIA earlier this year. More recently, the NTIA declared its intention to let the current IANA contract expire on 1st of October 2016. Interestingly, until August this year the issue seemed to float in a calm bubble. But with the acceleration of the US presidential campaign, the question of who should have oversight of the IANA Functions was back, like a puck in a hockey rink, slapped here and there.
On 14th of September, Senator Ted Cruz and some others summoned witnesses to a hearing held by the Judiciary Committee, “Protecting Internet Freedom: Implications of Ending US Oversight of the Internet”. The terms used were meant to instill fear among US voters: “Protecting” must be against some attack; and “Freedom” suggests that, without US control, the alternative must needs be a takeover by some Evil Force.
Two recent articles attempt to inform the US and global public about the fallacy of some of the claims made by Senator Cruz and others: on 15th of September, the New York Times wrote “Ted Cruz Fights Internet Directory’s Transfer; Techies Say He Just Doesn’t Get It“, and on 18th of September The Guardian’s editorial pointed to “Ted Cruz’s wrong turn on the information superhighway“.
Just before these articles, a group of 12 individuals from the US and elsewhere sent a letter to President Obama, urging the Administration to implement, and the Congress to not impede the Transition of Oversight of the IANA Functions. Similar letters were sent to the Speaker and Leadership of the House of Representatives, and the President pro tempore and Leadership of the Senate. Here is the content of the letter sent to the US President on the 12th of September, and subsequently conveyed to the New York Times, The Guardian and several other media:
Dear Mr. President:
As the first truly universal infrastructure in human history, the Internet has allowed huge progress to be achieved in business, legislation, science, public health, agriculture, industry, education and communications, at the same time as it has facilitated the daily lives of ordinary citizens all over the world.
Because of the seminal contribution of the United States of America in creating the Internet and carrying forward so many of its subsequent developments, your country has earned the deep and lasting gratitude of billions of people. In fact, today’s younger generations in so many countries cannot even imagine life without the benefits of ubiquitous connectivity, quick and free access to knowledge, as well as the facilitation of social intercourse.
As individuals deeply engaged in, and committed to improving the integrity, stability and uses of the Internet, we believe that now is an appropriate time to confirm the multi-stakeholder model of the Internet, in a way that would benefit both the United States and the rest of the world. In this respect, we note that the United States have consistently considered that the further development of the Internet would best be served by a global multi-stakeholder model:
At the inception of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in September 1998, the U.S. Government and Internet stakeholders envisioned that the U.S. oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions (“IANA functions”) would be temporary. Also in 1998, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a Statement of Policy that the U.S. Government “is committed to a transition that will allow the private sector to take leadership for DNS (Domain Name System) management.“
In December 2012, the House of Representatives and the Senate jointly stated: “It is the sense of Congress that the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, should continue working to implement the position of the United States on Internet governance that clearly articulates the consistent and unequivocal policy of the United States to promote a global Internet free from government control and preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the Internet today.“ (H.Con.Res.127; S.Con.Res.50).
In March 2014, the National Telecommunication and Information Agency (NTIA) announced its intention to transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community. As the first step, NTIA asked ICANN to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current oversight role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system, and set out four criteria for such a transition to merit consideration. As requested, ICANN convened the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) which started work in December 2014.
In March 2016 the ICG, with the input of the Internet community, submitted its Proposal to NTIA. The NTIA certified that the Proposal met the four criteria (June 2016), approved it (August 2016), and announced its intention to let the IANA Functions contract expire on October 1st, 2016.
It is our belief and indeed our conviction that the transition of oversight of the IANA Functions, from an agency of the United States Government to a multi-stakeholder system equipped with detailed checks and balances, will safeguard the security, openness and efficiency of the Internet, while helping to meet some of the challenges facing humanity and the world in which we live.
In bringing this to your esteemed attention, we are inspired by the fact that the foundation of the United States of America was, in itself, a major innovation of its time: it set out a model of government predicated on principles, a judiciary unswerved by political partisanship, and an economic model in which wealth and success would be earned by initiative and enterprise rather than by inheritance alone. Implementing those lofty principles required open information, as well as the awareness and growing participation of citizens. For the Internet today, the challenges are not very different.
It is our sincere hope that the Administration will now implement, and that the Congress of the United States of America will not impede the transition of oversight of the IANA Functions.
We are addressing similar letters to the Honorable Speaker of the House of Representatives, and to the Honorable President pro tempore of the Senate.
On behalf of the signatories listed below: Jean-Jacques Subrenat (Ambassador, ret.)
- The Hon. Carl Bildt (Sweden), Chair, Global Commission on Internet Governance; former Prime Minister & Foreign Minister
- Dr. Vinton G. Cerf (United States), former Chair of the Board of ICANN, Internet Pioneer
- Mr. John Danilovich (United States), Ambassador (ret.); Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce
- Ms. Avri Doria (United States), Principal Researcher, Technicalities
- Mr. Roberto Gaetano (Italy), Chair, the Public Interest Registry
- Prof. Dr. MURAI Jun 村井 純 (Japan), Dean & Professor, Environment and Information Studies, Keio University; Founder of Junet & WideProject
- Dr. Nii Narku Quaynor (Ghana), Chairman, Ghana Dot Com Ltd.; founding Chairman of AfriNIC
- Ms. Njeri Rionge (Kenya), Founder & CEO, Ignite Consult. & Investment; co-founder & Director, Wananchi Online Ltd.
- The Hon. Ms. Marietje Schaake (Netherlands), Founder, Intergroup on the Digital Agenda for Europe; Member of the European Parliament
- Mr. Jean-Jacques Subrenat (France), Ambassador (ret.); Former member, ICANN Board; Member of the ICG (2014~)
- Dr. Prof. XUE Hong 薛虹 (China), Founding Director, Institute for Internet Policy & Law, Beijing Normal Univ. 北京师范大学
- Dr. Prof. YOKOZAWA Makoto 横澤 誠 (Japan), Professor, Kyoto University; Vice Chair of the Internet Economy WG, Keidanren
(Views expressed in this letter are those of the signatories, and do not purport to represent the positions of entities with which they may be associated.)
Click here to open the September 2016 newsletter.
In July 2016, Roberto Gaetano was elected as Chair of the Board of Public Interest Registry (PIR, which operates the .org, .ong and .ngo domain names) for the period 2016-19. Roberto’s Internet experience covers a wide spectrum, from technical management to governance issues. During his service as an international civil servant at the International Atomic Energy Agency (AIEA), he became familiar with the complexities of an international Treaty Organization. As Internet Policy Advisor at ETSI, he was active in Internet policymaking and process leading to the creation of ICANN and its supporting organizations. Roberto was a member of the ICANN Board or Directors for 6 years, of which 3 as Liaison from the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC).
To those who have attended ICANN meetings not only in the daytime, Roberto also stands out as an accomplished jazz musician, livening things up with his saxophone on Music Nights under many latitudes.
Roberto is the initiator, a founding member, and currently Secretary of our EURALO Individual Users’ Association.
Warm congratulations to Roberto on his election as Chair of the PIR Board!
Click here to open the August 2016 newsletter.