The Standards Blog

North, East, South and West: WGIG goes off in all directions

WSIS/Internet Governance

After much anticipation, the Report of the Working Group on Internet Governance has been delivered to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. The much-awaited report has attracted great attention, due to its potential to threaten the hegemony of US based ICANN, the keeper of the root directory to the Internet. But instead of making such a recommendation, the report offers...four alternatives to choose from.

After much anticipation, the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) has tendered its Report of the Working Group on Internet Governance to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

 

The much-awaited report of the working group has attracted great attention, due to its potential to threaten the hegemony of US based ICANN, the keeper of the root directory to the Internet. Recently, a spokesperson for the US Department of Commerce announced that an earlier announced commitment to transition ICANN from the supervision of the US to a more international setting had been withdrawn, "due to the importance of maintaining the security of the Internet.".

 

The Working Group, which was chartered due to an impasse over the same question ("Who Should Govern the Internet?") within the multi-year World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process, could have made a recommendation in the direction of internationalizing the control of the Internet root, as desired by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), among others.

 

Instead, the working group has made…four alternative recommendations that present a range from the "status quo plus" to a radical departure from the current regime, all as a result of its inability to form a consensus around any of the proposals mooted by one faction or another.

 

As briefly summarized by The Register.com in a piece titled UN Outlines Future of US-less Internet, the four recommended models for governance are as follows:

Model 1: A Global Internet Council (GIC), consisting of governments, closely tied to the UN, but with "involvement" of other stakeholders. This model is a complete overhaul of the existing system with both existing overseers ICANN and the US government relegated to supporting roles.

 

Model 2: An "enhanced role" for ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). ICANN would stay in its current role and even be significantly strengthened thanks to the general world consensus.

 

Model 3: An International Internet Council (IIC) to be set up that would take over the US government's role but not be an explicit part of the UN. Likely to make the GAC element of ICANN redundant and leave ICANN as a purely technical body.

 

Model 4: Three new bodies will be set up to deal with three arms of internet governance. The Global Internet Policy Council (GIPC) will be responsible for "internet-related public policy issues"; the World Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (WICANN) will look after technical issues and basically be the same as ICANN is now but with closer ties to the UN and taking over the US government's role; and the Global Internet Governance Forum (GIGF) will be a global talking shop to thrash out ideas.

The working group also offered its opinion on what the much-debated rubric of "Internet governance" should entail:

Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the internet.

The next step in the process will be discussion of the report at a WSIS meeting to be held in Geneva in September.

 

Stay tuned.