Post Tagged with: "internet governance"

Why the U.S. Government Isn’t Really Relinquishing its Power over Internet Governance

Earlier this month, the U.S. government surprised the Internet community by announcing that it plans to back away from its longstanding oversight of the Internet domain name system. The move comes more than 15 years after it first announced plans to transfer management of the so-called IANA function, which includes the power to add new domain name extensions (such as dot-xxx) and to alter administrative control over an existing domain name extension (for example, approving the transfer of the dot-ca domain in 2000 from the University of British Columbia to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority).

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the change is rightly viewed as a major development in the ongoing battle over Internet governance. Yet a closer look at the why the U.S. is embarking on the change and what the system might look like once the transition is complete, suggests that it is not relinquishing much power anytime soon. Rather, the U.S. has ensured that it will dictate the terms of any transfer and retain a “super-jurisdiction” for the foreseeable future.


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March 25, 2014 5 comments Columns

Why the U.S. Government Isn’t Really Relinquishing its Power over Internet Governance

Appeared in the Toronto Star on March 22, 2014 as Why the U.S. Government Isn’t Really Relinquishing Power Over Internet Governance Earlier this month, the U.S. government surprised the Internet community by announcing that it plans to back away from its longstanding oversight of the Internet domain name system. The […]

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March 25, 2014 Comments are Disabled Columns Archive

Secret Surveillance Puts Internet Governance System at Risk

One year ago, many Internet users were engaged in a contentious debate over the question of who should govern the Internet. The debate pitted the current model led by a United States based organization known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (supported by the U.S.) against a government-led, United Nations-style model under which countries such as China and Russia could assert greater control over Internet governance.

The differences between the two approaches were never as stark as some portrayed since the current model grants the U.S. considerable contractual power over ICANN, but the fear of greater foreign government control over the Internet led to strong political opposition to UN involvement.

While supporters of the current model ultimately prevailed at a UN conference in Dubai last December where most Western democracies, including Canada, strongly rejected major Internet governance reforms, the issue was fundamentally about trust. Given that all governments have become more vocal about Internet matters, the debate was never over whether government would be involved, but rather about who the global Internet community trusted to lead on governance matters.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) argues that the Internet governance choice was a relatively easy one at the time, but in recent weeks the revelations about widespread U.S. secret surveillance of the Internet may cause many to rethink their views. Starting with the first disclosures in early June about the collection of phone metadata, the past two months have been marked by a dizzying array of reports that reveal a massive U.S. surveillance infrastructure that covers the globe and seeks access to virtually all Internet-based communications.

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August 2, 2013 4 comments Columns

Secret Surveillance Puts Internet Governance System at Risk

Appeared in the Toronto Star on July 27, 2013 as Secret Surveillance Puts Internet Governance System at Risk One year ago, many Internet users were engaged in a contentious debate over the question of who should govern the Internet. The debate pitted the current model led by a United States […]

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August 2, 2013 Comments are Disabled Columns Archive

UN Internet Meeting About Who Pays, Not Who Rules

Should the Internet be treated like traditional phone services when it comes to regulation and pricing? That is the contentious question as the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency with roots dating back to 1865 and the interconnection of telegraph services, meets in Dubai next week for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT).  The WCIT is a treaty-writing event that has attracted growing attention given fears that the ITU and countries such as Russia plan to use it to press for greater control over the Internet.

My weekly technology column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that there are certainly legitimate reasons for WCIT suspicion since the ITU lacks transparency and largely excludes public participation. For months, the ITU proposals scheduled for debate (known as International Telecommunications Regulations or ITRs) were shrouded in secrecy and the organization itself offered only limited opportunity for public participation. Moreover, some countries view the WCIT as an opportunity to increase their leverage over the Internet by proposing regulations that would increase governmental controls.

While these issues are cause for concern, proposals aimed at seizing control of Internet governance are unlikely to succeed and the reality is that governments already flex their regulatory muscles within the current U.S.-backed Internet governance framework.

The focus on a UN takeover of the Internet has obscured the real concern with the WCIT, namely efforts by telecom companies to find new sources of revenue by changing the way we pay for the Internet.

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November 27, 2012 10 comments Columns