The Year Ahead In Internet Governance: Of Competing Institutions, IANA Transition, And A New Crypto War 25/01/2015 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)For many years Electronic Frontier Foundation Policy Analyst Jeremy Malcolm has been predicting the next year would be the pivotal year for the UN-led Internet Governance Forum (IGF). With the NetMundial Initiative being constructed these coming months and governments having not yet agreed to prolong the IGF mandate, the decade-old forum might be challenged to either move or become just one of many internet governance conference venues. And while some hope the future oversight over the internet’s underlying IANA function could become an experiment in shared global governance, others point out that more and more of the interesting questions of internet politics are decided elsewhere: national governments, trade negotiators, big data giants and cyberdominance strategists. On 31 March, the 20-member NetMundial Initiative (NMI) Coordination Council will have its inaugural meeting and work to establish the “Terms of Reference” for the much-debated new beast in the internet governance arena. New IG Venue: Clearinghouse or (Un)friendly Takeover from UN IGF The NMI debates had been focussed – and still are – on whether there is a need for a quasi-central body and whether the World Economic Forum is the right partner. Despite claims by WEF Director Charles Schwab that the forum was “real multi-stakeholder” body, it is still seen a club for the rich and mighty. At its annual January meeting, the WEF will talk internet governance issues in a dozen different sessions and also announce its “multi-annual internet governance initiative,” Richard Samans, WEF head of the Centre for the Global Agenda said in a pre-Davos press conference. Also, despite having partnered with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, the internet technical oversight body), and secured support from the Brazilian government, the original host of the NetMundial Conference last year, considerable scepticism remains. Anja Kovacs, a researcher from the Internet Democracy Project in India, explained to Intellectual Property Watch: “While some other actors have decided to support it, many do not. Until and unless the NMI shows clear added value to a wide range of supporters, the top-down way in which it was conceived and constituted will continue to haunt it.“ Kovacs like most does not expect the IGF will go away. The NMI, she said, was founded by a small group of actors. “On the need to constitute the IGF, there was, and continues to be, a much broader consensus,” she said. Virgilio Almeida, Secretary for Information Technology in Brazil’s Ministry of Science and Technology, underlined: “NMI does not compete with IGF. IGF remains the right place for the multi-stakeholder processes dealing with internet governance.” The new venue was to “complement” the IGF and should work as a “clearinghouse” that matched issues to potential solutions, but it had no executive power. Wolfgang Kleinwächter, appointed as an ambassador of the NMI, rejected any claim that NMI would be a centralised body, a security council or politbureau for internet governance. Instead, he saw it as a “coalition of the willing” who wanted to overcome the barriers that had prevented IGF from moving to the next level. It could bring “new resources, new expertise and new authority” to the IG debate, Kleinwächter said. An IGF energised and pushed by the competition possibly would even allow the question as to whether the NMI would still be needed in a year. “2016, the situation can be completely different,” he said, even if he personally also could envisage the NMI as a monitoring body for the principles passed by last year’s Brazilian NetMundial Conference – or future IGF principles or recommendations. Hot in 2015: the WSIS+10 and IANA oversight Many internet governance experts agree that one final event in 2015 will be a decisive one, the intergovernmental WSIS+10 high level conference in December in New York (after a final round of negotiations at the 70th UN General Assembly). Not only “some of the thorny internet governance issues will come to a head there,” Kovacs argued, including the renewal of the IGF after its second five-year mandate ends with the 10th meeting in Joao Pessoa, Brazil (10-13 November) – and it had close to a year to figure out its relation to the NMI. [Note: WSIS refers to the 2003 (Geneva) and 2005 (Tunis) meetings of the UN-led World Summit on the Information Society.] Ten years ago, governments passed the Tunis Agenda with its principles on internet governance which still are the main reference point, said Matthias Kettemann, international law researcher and IG expert at the University of Frankfurt. With regard to normative rule-making, countries have made practically no progress since, he said, and at this point he even asks: “Will countries still sign off the Tunis principles or will they try to back off from these commitments?” IANA Transition – one of the Thorny Issues Another of the “thorny issues” that according to many expert observers will influence the UN General Assembly’s Internet Governance decisions (in September) is the planned transition of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) from a United States-overseen and contracted function to some new oversight construct. IANA’s tasks include the management of the root zone for domain names and the handing out of IP address blocks to the regional internet registries, critical functions in the hierarchical naming and numbering system of the internet. After the US National Telecommunications and Information Association announced it would let go of IANA and its direct oversight over some aspects – namely root zone updates – the names and numbers community and the internet protocol standardization community of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) began a voluminous, multi-layered process to present the US authorities with a new IANA model (for drafts on the IANA oversight see here) ICANN, who currently operates IANA under US Commerce Department/NTIA contract, is very interested to continue its “job” and has nearly convinced vast parts of the community that such an internal solution would be best. Others just see an internal solution as the easiest way to get transition done in time to allow NTIA to exit before the next US elections (2016) and the potential changes that might bring. Already parts of Congress have given the transition idea a shrug and have put a budgetary red light on NTIA’s transition work – more hearings in 2015 as the transition works continue are probable. In any event, it is unclear if the communities will work through all their questions in time: is there a need for an external contracting company (a trust?) and who should sit on the “Multi-Stakeholder Review Team,” the “Customer Standing Committee” and the “Independent Appeals Panel”? All these questions are being discussed by the names community (ICANN registries, registrars, commercial and non-commercial stakeholder groups and government representatives) as we write. Plus, some highly political questions like the jurisdiction for the construct still are up for debate. This particular issue has been the root of many heated discussions on the international diplomatic stage and several governments have asked ICANN to consider the status of an international organisation (comparable to UN organisations dependent on international law only). Rough Consensus – the New Governance Principle Exploring a completely new international governance model “that would be inclusive, but still work” is “rather cool” for Thomas Schneider, newly elected chair of the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). The Swiss official said, “I find it pretty remarkable, that so far all parties have made an effort to contribute.” But he is quick to add that there was a big unknown in the equation: “There are many who have been silent so far.” The possibility exists that some would step up later in the process and just reject what has been developed, he acknowledged. Schneider also acknowledges that the pace is breathtaking – and avers not only to broad inclusiveness because of the sheer volume of concepts, papers and discussions and to a full-fledged out agreement in the GAC on the future system. Governments focussed on principles and found the ones developed by the community close enough to go along so far. The first ICANN meeting of the year in February likely will reveal how far and solid a consensus could be reached by the governments. Given the tough timelines and the difficulties of matching classical governmental operations with governance, Schneider has appropriated the idea of “rough consensus” as a government principle, he explained. Schneider falls in line with the other experts when it comes to a potential failure of the transition and, he adds, also to a failure with regard to other topics from the GAC work list. The GAC for example still wants more protection with regard to the ongoing introduction of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). If no compromises can be forged, he thinks, that could result in some governments concluding “multi-stakeholder does not work.” Multi-Stakeholders, Multiple Issues Not that multistakeholderism is not been questioned already, even by some parts of the civil society. “A strategic initiative of the US government,” is what multi-stakeholder is for Michael Gurstein, executive director of the Canadian/South-African Centre for Community Informatics Research, Development and Training. For Gurstein, there is a “huge and ever-widening gap between what is wanted/needed in democratic governance and what is currently available – that is a major challenge.” He said he is afraid that when people finally get serious about what “multi-stakeholder” actually means, it might be too late. Meanwhile, his organisation and a list of NGOs from around a dozen countries have announced an Internet Social Forum, inspired according to the founders, by the World Social Forum. Under their clarion call “Another Internet is possible,” the group plans for a meeting toward the end of the year or the beginning of next year. Too late in the day it may in fact be for an international consensus on normative regulations in internet governance, legal expert Kettemann warned. Countries have come too far with national regulation, he thinks. “There will be no Kyoto Protocol for the Internet,” he said. Kettemann said he is even afraid that countries might have second thoughts on the basic internet governance compromise, the 10-year-old Tunis Agenda, once the WSIS+10 review has to be finalised at year’s end. Especially for the broader set of internet policy issues (beyond names and numbers management), more UN involvement could result from what is seen as a deficiency in openness even to discuss those policy issues without a “home”, according to Kovacs. “Developing countries are invariably told that ‘this is not to the place to discuss [x,y,z]’,” she said, “without an alternative of where these issue then could be discussed being provided.” There is a long list of UN events on the internet, including the UN Human Rights Council discussion freedom of expression and internet privacy in March 2015, the UNESCO conference on “Connecting the Dots” in March, the ITU 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference in November, and the ITU’s attempt to reform its Internet Governance Council Working Group in May. (UNESCO refers to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and ITU is the UN International Telecommunication Union, which organised WSIS). But EFF analyst Malcolm points out that many wider internet governance issues suddenly are being re-routed. “We are seeing a lot of internet issues move into trade negotiations, bilateral and multilateral.” Examples include the free flow of information or intermediary liability, added to the issue of intellectual property rights. Trade negotiations are commonly seen as not open, multi-stakeholder venues. Surprises, Post-Snowden Conundrum Besides all these prepared events (as well as high-profile meetings of country groups like the G20 or BRICS), 2015 may also have some surprises at hand. “Who would have expected the Snowden revelations in 2013?,” asked Malcolm. Perhaps this year all the documents on the intelligence services will be fully published, he speculated. Legally, the EFF is pushing for US National Security Agency (NSA) reform, and in Europe several organisations including Amnesty International and Privacy International are dragging the UK General Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) before the European Court of Human Rights. Technically, there are some attempts to give control back to the users. EFF for example has announced a “Let’s encrypt” campaign for 2015 and even the engineering community at the IETF got a call from their peers, the Internet Architecture Board, to use encryption everywhere. Enter the politicians, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama – others can be expected to follow if they are not long there – with their newest campaign: encrypt, but only so that we can read it. So here is one more really hot internet policy topic for 2015: a new edition of the crypto wars. If you think you have a stake here, start your internet governance year by sending your opinion on the use of cryptographic protection on the net to the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Opinion, David Kaye, before 10 February. For internet governance-related timelines see here and here. For an ICANN issue-timeline, see here. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Monika Ermert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."The Year Ahead In Internet Governance: Of Competing Institutions, IANA Transition, And A New Crypto War" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.