Michael Gurstein on Tue, 5 Mar 2002 00:21:45 +0100 (CET)

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FW: <nettime> ICANN's proposed 'reform'

There is a debate now beginning to rage concerning the future of ICANN, the
"private" group which manages the global system of Domain Naming.

While this is in some sense obscure, at another level it is really concerned
with the essence and architecture of the Internet.

As anyone who has followed this list will know, I've had concerns about this
for years now and particularly that there has been no avenue for developing
a Canadian public interest perspective and intervention within Canada or
ICANN around this issue.  The Feds appear to have chosen not to discuss this
matter in public since the rather notorious Green Paper in 1997 (?) which
only dealt with technical matters.

Canadian ISPs have had an active role and interest in this representing
their own (national?) interests but overall Canada which is arguably the
second country of the Net (after the US) has had none of the public interest
policy infrastructure development that has taken place in the US or in
Europe largely I would argue because, where previously these issues had been
discussed within a framework of organizations with public support, for
whatever reason no public support has been available for discussions in this
most crucial area.  The Chretien government's conflation of Canadian
corporate interests in this sector with the national/public interest has
been allowed to proceed without serious scrutiny.

These matters again become acute in this current context since there seems
to be no articulation of a middle way between the two essentially US-centric
positions currently presented.  On the one side there is the "Federalist"
position of the current ICANN CEO and staff which is to reduce (or
eliminate) the role of the at large membership in favor of an increased role
for individual governments, while on the other hand there is the "Populist"
position being articulated by Ted Byfield and others in the US from a public
interest perspective, which is extremely suspicious of this approach and of
any government involvement in Internet governance and which wishes to carry
on with the "experiment" of a substantial role for the Internet's at large

However, as the most recent document from Dr. Lynn, the ICANN CEO points
out, the Internet is now too important for national and international
commerce, security and general well-being for it to be left to extremely
fragile and essentially ad hoc processes for its long-term structural
stability.  No government in their right mind is going to leave the future
of a fundamental building block of its internal commercial structures to the
ghost of Jon Postel.

So surely the issue should not be if, but how to restructure Internet
governance so as to ensure the broadest public interest in the face of
extreme and self-interested pressures and attempts at intervention from the
most globally powerful national and corporate interests.

The development and presentation of a possible third position, such as for
example the use of the UN, UN related or some other global governance
structure to represent a global "public interest" has been generally
disregarded in these discussions because of the usual US suspicion and
misunderstanding of the role and functioning of the UN and broadly based
institutions for global governance.

But there is no reason against and very significant reasons for public
interest groups and national governments outside of the US to opt for a
multi-lateral strategy and the pressures from public interest advocates
within the US and elsewhere should to my mind be directed toward ensuring
that the global governance structure which does emerge is one which takes
sufficient account of public as well as private goods.

Mike Gurstein

-----Original Message-----
From: nettime-l-request@bbs.thing.net
[mailto:nettime-l-request@bbs.thing.net]On Behalf Of t byfield
Sent: February 25, 2002 2:34 AM
To: nettime-l@bbs.thing.net
Subject: <nettime> ICANN's proposed 'reform'

/cut here, nettime-mod/

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