[discuss] ICANN policy and "Internet Governance"

Avri Doria avri at acm.org
Fri Jan 3 06:03:35 UTC 2014

On 02-Jan-14 19:23, Andrew Sullivan wrote:
> What I still do not understand, and where I agree with Brian's paper,
> is what it adds to call any of that "Internet Governance".

I do not see the problem with the term.  It is not as if it had any 
previous meanings or any previous usage baggage.

It is not like Internet governance (Ig) meant anything before we all 
started trying to define it.  In some sense it is a new term that is 
there for us, the stakeholders, to define as we need it defined. 
Remember the WSIS defintion is just a working definiton, a draft definition.

I understand that many understand that governance mean governments.  But 
just as it is not the case in the dictionary definition of governance - 
while one definition might include government, another usually doesn't, 
or the case for other forms of governance such as corporate governance 
or hospital governance, it does not need to mean that for Internet 

Personally I think the more kinds of governance we define and implement 
that are not synonymous with government, even if they have some specific 
role  in the process, the better off we will be in the long run.

> entire
> set of issues is actually just the governance of one part of ICANN's
> overall responsibilities.  It's a debate with important side effects,
> of course.  But why call those issues "Internet Governance", and
> conflate them with the issues of IP allocation, protocol parameter
> allocation, international sales tax settlements, global routing
> issues, in-border peering problems, surveillance by various national
> governments of traffic transiting domestic or foreign data centres,
> international theft, transborder identity fraud, and so on?  Lumping
> these different things all together simply makes a muddle.  (Some of
> them aren't even particularly Internet-related, though of course there
> may be technolgical angles that the Internet enables.)

It is true that not all of the issues being categorized under Ig, are 
directly linked.  Similarly, all the issues listed under technical 
coordination are not necessarily directly linked, yet we see enough 
similarities between the issues and the architecture they relate to, 
that we call them all technical coordination.  I would argue that 
Internet policy issues have similar elements that bring them into the 
same category. Ig defines a category. not a single thing.

> Moreover, unless one thinks the answer is, "ICANN is hopelessly
> broken; let's replace it," why do we need any new -- multilateral or
> multistakeholder, bottom-up or top-down, national or international --
> forum for the discussion about ICANN issues?  Why isn't this just an
> ICANN reform problem?  Why conflate the NSA and the *NSOs?

I don't think 1net or Brazil or Ig is about ICANN, and my mention here, 
is just as examples. It is just that it is one of the better known hyper 
active examples.

In some cases we have an ICANN specific problem, but ICANN is not an 
island and its policy decisions have effects that reach beyond the 
simple decisions made in ICANN.  At the simplest level of interactions 
there are the technical requirements it is starting to relay to the IETF 
for various improvements.  Then there are techno-policy problems, such 
as the inability to map one variant name to another that leak into the 
social sphere.  And of course there are identification problems that 
create needs for new weird registration directory protocols and practices.

Sure, the NSA kerfuffle does not directly relate to ICANN actions, but, 
as an example of the interrelatedness of topics, the fact that Uncle Sam 
was in some respect responsible for both ICANN and the NSA, results in 
some degree of policy linkage: how do we trust the US to be a good 
steward when it obviously doesn't really know what that means, at least 
not in terms others can accept.  So when we Americans say trust NTIA 
(which I find I do) we quickly run up against the question: but how can 
you trust the same government responsible for the Human Rights 
infractions of the NSA (tough question to answer). The issues are 
related and they affect the policy and regulatory function that we are 
doing for ourselves as a multistakeholder organization. The NSA fiasco 
makes doing ICANN's job harder.  That makes it an Internet governance, 
for want of a better term, issue.

[BTW, I am not one who thinks of ICANN as hopelessly broken.  Like every 
organization I have ever participated in, it has breakage. But as an 
adolescent organization, there is still a lot of hope.  Then again, I 
even think an ancient org like ITU can be saved, though very few think 
as I do on that score.  And saving the ITU would be a long shot.

Some people use the term ecosystem for the Internet.  I have never been 
all that comfortable with that term, but I do see the reason people use 
it.  While every thing may not be related in a point to point manner, in 
the end most of the policies on the Internet have a chance of indirectly 
affecting some other part of the Internet at least indirectly.

So yes, maybe there is a better term than Internet governance. 
Technical coordination is not it, I think we are seeing that. 
Governance does not mean governments, and any other term will will have 
its own group of semantic dissidents, for there are no perfect terms for 
anything.  With the term Internet governance, we have a lot of invested 
understanding and even though the working definition is not perfect it 
is a base we can all work from with a degree of mutual understanding. 
It is, to some degree, like running code.


More information about the discuss mailing list