[discuss] Time to be more precise about Internet Governance

Shatan, Gregory S. GShatan at ReedSmith.com
Mon Dec 30 05:05:40 UTC 2013

Having read Brian's piece, I can see why it was important to him to dispute what I thought was a rather mundane linguistic/semantic statement -- that the use of the word "governance" in "Internet Governance" does not imply that governments must be involved.  Whether any or all definitions of "Internet Governance" include a role for governments is beside the point.  It is not the use of the word "governance" alone that brings governments into Internet Governance (or else governments would also be involved in corporate governance or governance of my summer wind band) -- it is the  fact that governments are among the stakeholders that have an interest in the internet (Avri made this point quite succinctly).

However, I see that this definition of governance causes problems for Brian and why he prefers the (linguistically inaccurate) idea that "'governance' must involve governments."  Brian's thesis seems to be that Internet (or Cross-Border Information) Governance is by definition a system that governments must be involved in, but it in fact covers very little of what most of us refer to as "Internet Governance."  In Brian's view, most of what is commonly referred to as Internet Governance should be considered "coordination" (to which governments (and perhaps all us not directly involved in a particular topic) need not apply).  This seems to be an attempt to give governments a small slice of The Concept Formerly Known As Internet Governance (TCFKAIG) to muck with, while making everything else seem as mundane and "administrative" as possible.

It's a neat trick, but I don't think it works. For instance, I don't think you could convince anyone involved in ICANN's New gTLD process that this was merely "administrative" and didn't involve any "Internet Governance."  The stakeholders will all still want seats at the table, whether the topic is IG (whatever the I stands for) or mere "coordination."  This thesis reminds of a topic popular within ICANN -- the distinction between "policy" and "implementation."  I tend to think both of these pairs (governance/coordination and policy/implementation) are poles on a spectrum and that few issues are solidly at one end or the other.  Just as most "implementation" actions/decisions involve some level of "policy" consideration, so most coordination actions/decisions (in Brian's morphology) involve some level of governance (involving multiple stakeholders who will be affected (often significantly) by which choices are made in "coordination").

I don't think we'll be able to keep governments (or other stakeholders) away from issues of interest and importance to them just by denominating these issues as "coordination."  I agree that a semantic argument is probably a dead-end.  Whatever you call this bundle of issues that we have gathered around, I don't think any of the players will leave the game just because we change the name.  Therefore, I think we might as well call it Internet Governance and move on to more substantive issues (including the role(s), if any, of governments in various aspects of Internet Governance).

Greg Shatan

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at 1net.org [mailto:discuss-bounces at 1net.org] On Behalf Of Brian E Carpenter
Sent: Sunday, December 29, 2013 8:18 PM
To: discuss at 1net.org
Subject: [discuss] Time to be more precise about Internet Governance


Rather then shooting off further random comments, I decided to write up my thoughts in a somewhat coherent way:


As John so often says: My views alone.

   Brian Carpenter

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