Gives the u.s. Government oversight of the internet root?

Internet Governance 2015: Towards an Internet Agenda 2025

2015 has just begun, but the Internet governance calendar is already packed until the end of the year. The list of relevant topics is getting longer and, after years of discussion, the call for concrete results is getting louder.

But whether a significant step forward can be made in the long march through the global Internet governance ecosystem in 2015 is an open question. The answer will depend in no small part on how two distinct but interconnected processes play out:

  • In the Internet microcosm – the management of domain names and IP addresses – the main ie in 2015 will be whether and how the so-called IANA functions, hitherto overseen by the U.S. government, can be transferred to a multi-stakeholder mechanism without jeopardizing the security and stability of the Internet;
  • In the Internet macrocosm, the ie is how this multi-stakeholder governance approach can be further developed to find practical solutions to the growing number of political, economic, social, cultural and legal Internet problems.

IANA Stewardship Transition

In March 2014, the U.S. government announced that it would not renew the IANA contract, which expires in September 2015, under certain conditions. The IANA contract regulates.a. Oversight of the Internet Root Server System. The contract gives the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA), a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the right to register files for Top Level Domains (TLDs) such as .com or .de in the root server. Among the conditions the U.S. government has defined for a possible handover of the IANA function is not only the arance of security and stability of the Internet, but also that oversight will in the future be carried out by the Internet community itself (in the form of a multistakeholder mechanism) and not by an intergovernmental organization.

The announcement has triggered a worldwide discussion. A structured process has since emerged to debate the details of a possible handover. An IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) of 30 experts from all stakeholder groups (including five government representatives) is coordinating the detailed proposals, which are being prepared by three sub-working groups (for protocols, numbers and names). The ICG is to combine the various ideas into a plan that meets the criteria of the U.S. government and represents a consensus of the Internet community. The regular ICANN meetings in Singapore (February 2015) and Buenos Aires (June 2015) offer good opportunities to discuss the pros and cons of the individual proposals in an open and transparent process. By September 2015, the U.S. government must then decide whether there will be a transfer of responsibilities or whether the existing contract will be extended for another two years.

On the one hand, the so-called IANA function is not a major problem. Over the years, the role of the U.S. government has been little more than that of a notary public. When it comes to a new entry of a file in the Internet Root Server System, someone must be there to check if the agreements between the registry (e.g.B. DENIC for .de) and ICANN have been executed correctly according to the corresponding guidelines. Already in 1998, when ICANN was founded, the US government had announced that sooner or later this "security check" delegate. 17 years ago, it was unclear whether ICANN would evolve into a stable mechanism. Now the US government apparently believes that ICANN has grown up. So now you can "Stutzrad" for the children’s bike.

On the other hand, this notarial function is full of political symbolism. For years it has been the subject of speculation, myth and political suspicion. For many groups, including quite a few governments, the IANA function is something like the decisive control post on the Internet. In this respect, it is not surprising that the NTIA plan has led to renewed political controversy. Doubters and opponents exist on both sides of the spectrum.

For some groups – including many conservative members of the U.S. Congress – the entire plan is a "bad idea". They accuse the U.S. president, in seeking to relinquish oversight of the Internet Root, of creating a "power vacuum" that will sooner or later be filled by governments that censor the Internet. They distrust the "multistakeholder model" and want the "status quo" . On the other hand, there are groups that want to use the termination of U.S. oversight to not only reorganize the simple IANA functions, but to reform ICANN as a whole. In this respect, it is not an easy task for the ICG to find the right balance. Strong protection against possible capture is as important as avoiding the unintended side effects that an overly ambitious plan could unleash.

The timetable is tight. However, if no solution is found by September 2015, this would not be a disaster for the Internet. The current contract includes the possibility of two extensions of two years each. In this respect one had time until 2019. Missing the current first exit option would therefore be nothing more than a missed opportunity. Everything would continue as before.

Nevertheless, a postponement of the termination of US supervision would be a fatal signal. For many governments, the failure would be an argument against the innovative multistakeholder model that has been viewed with suspicion for years. Conservative governments in particular preferred that the Internet, including the management of its critical technical resources, be subjected to a traditional intergovernmental regulatory mechanism. Old proposals to transform the ITU into the Internet organization or the creation of an "Internet Governance Council", as discussed at the UN World Summit in Tunis in 2005, could be revived and the end of a "free and open Internet" lute.

Renewal of the IGF mandate

This discussion has the potential to make waves at the review conference of the 2005 UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS 10+) scheduled for December 2015 in New York. The IANA treaty was the subject of controversy 10 years ago at the Tunis summit. Many governments criticized the special role of the USA. Sie widerspreche dem Grundsatz der souveranen Gleichheit der Staaten, ein in der UN Charta verankertem Volkerrechtsprinzip. All governments should have equal rights and say in managing top level domains in the Internet root server system.

The Tunis Agenda states in paragraph 68: "We recognize that all governments have an equal role and responsibility in international Internet governance and in ensuring the stability, security and continuity of the Internet."

Since Tunis, this ie has been discussed at many IGF meetings and in the UNCSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC). Some wanted to replace the role of the U.S. government with an intergovernmental body. Others wanted the U.S. government to withdraw and the Internet community to govern itself. There is no consensus to date. In other words, if there is no transfer of IANA functions to the Internet community in September 2015, the temptation for some governments to turn the WSIS 10+ conference into a new intergovernmental Internet battleground in December 2015 would be great.

And there is another problem. Efforts at the youngest 69. UN General Assembly to renew the mandate of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which expired in 2015, failed. The decision was postponed until the 70. UN General Assembly. This is now taking place in parallel with the final phase of negotiations for WSIS 10+. There is a high risk that the debate on the IGF mandate will turn into political horse-trading, with some governments demanding a price for agreeing to extend the IGF. The IGF is one of the few functioning multistakeholder mechanisms in the global Internet governance ecosystem. The 10. IGF takes place in November 2015 in Joao Passeo in Brazil. Mexico City has offered to host the 2016 event. And Germany is considering hosting the IGF in 2017 or 2018. The IGF steering committee, the "Multistakeholder Advisory Group" (MAG) and its secretariat, are based in Geneva, where the innovative idea of equal participation of non-sovereign stakeholders in Internet policy development has many supporters.

But the political culture at the UN in New York is different. It is still characterized by the old power games of the 20th. where governments negotiate diplomatic deals behind closed doors. It remains to be seen whether the coming discussions on the East River will break up old and encrusted structures or throw off innovative approaches.

Broad Internet discussion

IANA contract, IGF renewal and WSIS 10+ are not the only ies on the 2015 Internet governance agenda, however. There are many bodies addressing Internet ies in 2015:

  • The UN Human Rights Council continues its discussion on freedom of expression and privacy in cyberspace at its 28th. session in Geneva in March 2015.
  • The UN Commission on Science and Technology Development (UNCSTD) will discuss the so-called "mapping proposal" of the Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC) at its regular meeting in Geneva, May 2015.
  • UNESCO will present a study on science and technology development at its 38. General Conference in October 2015 to discuss a study on Internet policy ies. There will be a high-level expert conference on this in Paris in March 2015.
  • The ITU Council’s Intergovernmental Internet Governance Working Group will meet in Geneva in early February 2015 and will be open to other stakeholders for the first time.
  • Internet governance ies will emerge in global negotiations on new trade agreements such as TTIP, TPP, TISA.
  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) is addressing Internet governance at its January 2015 meeting in Davos;
  • The so-called "London Process" on cyberspace security will have its next high-level meeting in The Hague in April 2014.
  • BRICS countries will discuss a Russian proposal for a new cybersecurity treaty at their July 2015 summit in the Russian city of Ufa.
  • The OECD in Paris is preparing its 2016 Ministerial Conference on the Information Economy.
  • In 2015, the OSCE in Vienna will focus on confidence-building measures for cyberspace and human rights ies.
  • In 2015, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg is working on the implementation of its Internet Governance Strategy under the slogan "Maximized rights – minimized restrictions".
  • In 2015, the European Union in Brussel will begin implementing its new "Digital Agenda", which among.a. the establishment of a "Global Internet Policy Observatory" (GIPO).
  • The African Union, at its summit in Addis Ababa at the end of January 2015, will discuss the Convention on Trust and Security in Cyberspace, which was concluded last year.

In addition to these meetings, there will be more than 50 national and regional IGFs around the world, including IGF Germany in Berlin in spring 2015 and the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EURODIG) in Sofia in June 2015. Nearly 20 global and regional meetings of the so-called technical I* organizations (ICANN, IETF, RIRs and others) are scheduled, including three ICANN meetings (Singapore in February, Buenos Aires in June and Dublin in October) and three IETF meetings (March in Dallas, July in Prague and October in Yokohama). And you can add dozens of academic and business conferences where Internet governance is on the agenda in 2015.

Internet Governance Ecosystem: A Virtual Rainforest

The growing global Internet governance ecosystem looks more and more like a rainforest with its almost incomprehensible diversity. In this "virtual rainforest" we also have an endlessly growing diversity of networks, services, applications, and regimes that coexist and are all interconnected at the same time. What has emerged is a gigantic interdependent multilayer and multiplayer mechanism of mutual communication, coordination and cooperation.

In this Internet governance ecosystem, there are many "players" operating at local, national, regional, and international levels, driven by technical innovations, user requirements, market opportunities, and political interests, with very different legal status, economic scale, and political importance.

As a result, we see a very dynamic process in which a variety of different regulatory, co-regulatory, or self-regulatory systems coexist, complement, or conflict with each other. The system as a whole is decentralized and does not have a central authority. Like the rainforest, the Internet governance ecosystem as a whole is neither controllable nor governable, but it can be damaged by pollution and silencing.

The lack of a central authority does not mean that the global community could not do anything. There is certainly no royal road. Nor is there a blueprint for all Internet problems. Each problem is structured differently. In this respect, the complexity of the Internet also requires complex answers. Simple solutions do not work. And if sustainable answers are to be found, one must tackle problem after problem and find a specific solution for each individual case. All stakeholders must be involved in their respective roles, both in identifying the problem and in finding solutions, but at the same level and without creating new hierarchies.

This requires further development of creative models, mechanisms and procedures. There is much uncharted territory to be explored. In this respect, it makes sense to develop something like an Internet Governance Agenda 2025. It is true that it is difficult to bring the wide variety of Internet ies into a meaningful and manageable structure. The above "mapping proposal" of the WGEC has already made a first step in the right direction. So it was possible to put all the hundreds of individual questions into four broad baskets, knowing that each basket would then have to deal with a wide variety of subtopics and that all the baskets would be more or less connected to each other.

Internet Governance Agenda 2025

Basket 1: Cybersecurity

In response to all the cyber attacks we have seen in the last year, the ie of cybersecurity will climb up the priority ladder. The problem, however, is that there is no accepted international definition of cybersecurity. Some see it as the technical security of the Internet infrastructure. Others see cybersecurity in the context of the fight against cybercriminals. And after Stuxnet, PRISM, and Snowden, cyber espionage, cyber terrorism, and cyber warfare have become national security ies. All of these are different shoes to fill, however, and require very different policy approaches.

The ie of national security and cyberspace e.B. has been dealt with for years in NATO, the OSCE and the UN. In NATO, a so-called "Tallin Manual" which tries to define the still very vague terms like cyber war or cyber weapons. The extent to which the Geneva Convention on the Law of Humanitarian Law can be applied to conflicts in cyberspace is being discussed. In the "Group of Governmental Experts" (GGE), who is under the 1. Committee of the UN General Assembly has been meeting for years, there has been no significant progress. Proposals by Russia and China to develop a cybersecurity convention or state code of conduct are not moving forward.

At least a number of proposals for confidence-building measures (CBMs) in cyberspace are now on the negotiating table at the UN and OSCE. However, a consensus or even an agreement between governments is far away and it would be a big surprise if there was a breakthrough in 2015. It is also unrealistic to wait for bilateral or multilateral no-spy agreements. Regardless of the global outcry following the Snowden disclosures, cyber espionage will continue in 2015 and may even intensify.

It is more realistic to bet that the various bilateral cyber dialogues pushed by the U.S., China, and EU cyber powers in recent years will bring some relief, e.g.B. by means of the confidence-building measures already mentioned. The cyber security conference in The Hague in April 2015 could be very helpful in this respect. On the other hand, Russia has announced that it will use the upcoming BRICS summit in Ufa in July 2015 to possibly agree on a regional cybersecurity treaty on the model of the treaty signed by the member states of the African Union last year. – Basket 2: Cybereconomy

If the Internet failed today, the world economy would collapse. Without the Internet, the economy and world trade can no longer function. The major Internet companies have become the main drivers of innovation, economic growth and job creation. This raises many new questions. Will the dominance of the so-called GAFAs (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple), the Ciscos, Intels and Microsofts expand in 2015?? Will the gross Internet players from China such as Ali Baba, Baidu, Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi challenge the US dominance? What Europe can do?

The new EU Commission has adopted an ambitious digital agenda and raises ies such as competition law, tax law, data protection and the role of national legislation. For developing countries, the cybereconomy still means developing an infrastructure that first enables access to the Internet. This will not be the end of the story.

The call for broadband connections for all leads to the ie of net neutrality. Will this become a global ie? Internet governance is not a direct ie in global trade negotiations, but it is a subliminal ie in TPP, TTIP and TISA. And the ie of protecting intellectual property on the Internet is still relevant. The global economic agenda is increasingly dictated by the Internet, as the agenda of the World Economic Forum in Davos or the preparation of the OECD Ministerial Conference show.

Basket 3: Human rights

Freedom of expression, censorship, content control, privacy, data protection, data security, cultural diversity, and access to the Internet are open human rights ies that are far from settled even after ten years of discussion in the IGF. It was important that the U.N. passed a resolution two years ago affirming that all people have the same human rights offline and online. But there is a need for more clarity and for concrete actions to ensure these rights. This remains primarily a task for the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and the 3. Committee of the UN General Assembly.

However, Internet-related human rights ies are now also surfacing in economic and technical fora. Human rights groups call for z.B. A ban on the export of surveillance technology to dictatorships. At ICANN, the new Registrar Accreditation Agreements (RAA) have put Whois database privacy on the agenda. With the implementation of ICANN’s new gTLD program, the question of the extent to which the right to freedom of expression includes the right to choose domain names, including the name of top level domains, is coming to a head. And in the IETF, groups are now calling for a review of whether technical codes require or undermine the protection of human rights before new Internet protocols are adopted.

Basket 4: Technology

With innovations such as cloud computing, the Internet of Things, voice and facial recognition, there are new challenges for technical Internet protocols, standards, codes and the management of Internet identifiers such as domain names, IP numbers or sensors. As never before, new technological inventions have political implications, and politics cannot function today if it does not take note of the changes in the technological environment. 15 years ago, code makers and law makers could live in different worlds and ignore each other. This time is over.

The new challenge for both sides is to learn to work hand in hand. The definition of Internet governance adopted by the UN World Summit on the Information Society in 2005 already stated that policy decisions need the cooperation of all stakeholders. The time is ripe to move from political commitments to open and transparent participatory policy development from the bottom up to practical processes that make it happen.

Net Mundial: Another Step into Uncharted Territory

One of the new innovative policy tools may be the NetMundial Initiative (NMI), which began to be constituted in the second half of 2014. In April 2014, the Internet World Conference was held in Sao Paulo "NetMundial" was held in Sao Paulo, organized by the Brazilian government in cooperation with 12 other governments and Internet technical organizations. This was a step into uncharted political territory because, for the first time, a world conference in which all stakeholders from governments, business, civil society and the technical community participated on an equal footing also produced a tangible result: NetMundial adopted a General Declaration of Internet Governance Principles and agreed on an Internet Roadmap for the future.

NetMundial was the result of growing dissatisfaction with the lost trust in the Internet after the Snowden revelations. The Sao Paulo Principles are based on two dozen Internet policy statements adopted by various bodies such as the OECD, the Council of Europe, the Global Network Initiative and others over the last five years, and discussed in detail at the recent IGFs in Nairobi (2011), Baku (2012) and Bali (2013). These principles are supported not only by an overwhelming majority of governments, but also by key stakeholders from the private sector, civil society, and the technical community, i.e.h. Google and Facebook, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, ICANN and the Internet Society, etc.

This Internet Governance Principle statement supplements the Internet Governance definition of the UN World Summit of 2005 and constitutes a universal political-legal framework for the Internet. Like the UN Declaration on Human Rights, it is not legally binding. But its generality, authority and high acceptance by all stakeholder groups will make it an important reference document when it comes to assessing the behavior of governments, companies or individuals on the Internet in the future. Something similar can be said about the Sao Paulo Roadmap. It is more or less a skeleton for a yet to be developed Internet Governance Agenda 2025.

There was also a clear message from Sao Paulo to strengthen the existing multi-stakeholder mechanisms for managing global Internet ies. This is especially true for the IGF. The NMI is not an alternative to the IGF, nor is it a competing event. There is a rough potential for a win-win situation between the IGF and the NMI. The NMI can provide additional expertise, knowledge and resources to strengthen the IGF and help develop solutions to problems identified by the IGF.

The NMI’s mission and mandate have not yet been defined. This is to be done by the end of March 2015 in an open and transparent discussion process. In principle, the NMI could act like a root server in the DNS. The root servers do not decide anything themselves, but they have the knowledge to forward requests coming from a server of an end user to the right address where the questioner then gets his answer. In other words, NMI – in close connection with the IGF – could act as an Internet governance clearinghouse. The idea of such a clearinghouse is not new. It was proposed five years ago in the UNCSTD Working Group on IGF Improvement. But the proposal was never implemented. Perhaps the time is now ripe to do nails with heads.

The new NMI Coordinating Council is a unique body. The 23-member team, nominated by the three founding organizations –, ICANN and WEF – will have its first meeting on 31 March 2015. March 2015. Members of this council are one representative from each of the four stakeholder groups (government, business, civil society, technical community) from each of the five world regions (Europe, Asia. All members of the group have equal rights. The government bench is very high-ranking, with three ministers from the U.S., China and Egypt, as well as a vice president of the European Commission. You now sit on equal footing with a former chairman of the civil society Internet Governance Caucus (IGC), a director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), a former chairman of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the president of ICANN, the father of the African Internet, the secretary general of the World Information Technology and Service Alliance (WITSA), and the CEO of Alibaba, Jack Ma.

It remains to be seen how such a unique roundtable will function. It is still too early to speculate on this. Much will depend on how the NMI and IGF complement each other. The good news is that a key driver of the NMI – the Brazilian Internet Council – will also be the main organizer of the 10. IGF in Joao Pessoa. This will help create synergies and avoid misunderstandings.

The clock is ticking. In September 2015, the IANA treaty expires. In October, the 54th. ICANN meeting will take place. In early November, the 10. IGF. At the end of November, the 70. UN General Assembly will decide on the IGF mandate. And in December, WSIS 10+ will adopt the new Internet agenda. 2015 will indeed be an exciting year for Internet governance.

Wolfgang Kleinwachter is Professor Emeritus of Internet Policy and Regulation at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. He is a member of the ICANN Board of Directors and a Special Ambassador for the NetMundial Initiative. In this article he expresses his personal opinion.