[discuss] ICANN policy and "Internet Governance"

Suzanne Woolf suzworldwide at gmail.com
Sat Jan 4 00:16:14 UTC 2014

On Jan 3, 2014, at 5:32 PM, Milton L Mueller <mueller at syr.edu> wrote:

> -----Original Message-----
>> The part of Brian's paper that I strongly agreed with is that the term for many 
>> appears to be a catch-all for "anything related to the Internet about which I 
>> feel strongly Something Should Be Done".  I understood him to be arguing that 
>> it's not an actionable category, and I agree with him.  
> It's true that "Internet governance" becomes indistinguishable from "Internet policy" for many people, if one is not careful and allows it to happen.

Alas, I think it's too late to speak of this hypothetically. Like the conflation of "the internet" with "the web," for example, it's a horse that's left its barn long since. 

> For those of us more familiar with policy debates, however, 'public policy' typically means _national_ policy. We also tend to qualify the term "Internet governance" with the modifier "global Internet governance" although admittedly often that is implicit.  

Thank you, this is exactly the sort of distinction that's helpful to have explained to a non-specialist.

> You said:
>> Neither of these two, of course, need any new "governance" forum at all.  We have at least one, and >frequently more than one.
> ...
>> For peering issues are by definition voluntary and physically located, so I don't get why we 
>> need any decision-making body for that.  Why isn't that an issue of the relevant parties 
>> working together on their own?
> ...
>> Apart from a discussion forum to inform national lawmaking, what is needed here?  
>> If nothing, again, why isn't the IGF adequate?
> ...
>> what problem is some new body supposed to be solving that isn't already covered?
> From these comments it is clear that you confuse or equate all discussions of global Internet governance with proposals for a new governance institution.

Well, I'm not Andrew and wouldn't presume to speak for him, but maybe I can help clarify: coming from much the same context as he has (modulo direct experience of ICANN since its founding, and those other "technical coordination" mechanisms for longer), I have the same sense that the discussion here has largely assumed something new is needed-- if not an "institution" specifically, perhaps a "forum" or "mechanism" beyond those already in existence for discussing and resolving issues within the scope of IG.

Otherwise, why 1net, or the Brazil conference, at all?

> This indicates to me that you may be unfamiliar with the ongoing IG debate, most of which is not about forming a new body but rather is about:
> 	a) the role of national govts and existing intergovernmental bodies relative to existing private sector-based MS institutions (e.g., ITU vs. ICANN) 
> 	b) proposals for reforming or changing existing private sector-based MS institutions (e.g, 'globalizing' the IANA function; making ICANN more accountable, abolishing or strengthening GAC) 
> 	c) the substantive policies that are adopted or applied by various institutions (e.g., whether ICANN's TLD approvals should involve censorship of 'sensitive' strings, or whether international interconnection should involve a sender-pays method.)  

So, can you explain the sense that seems to be underlying discussions in this forum, discussion of the Brazil meeting, etc., that the existing mechanisms (formal institutions, informal policy fora, technical coordination methods, etc.) are not adequately addressing certain of those issues? It would be especially helpful if you could explain with a concrete example or two.  Are you arguing, for example, that the RIR policy mechanisms are inadequate to satisfy an identifiable requirement in some identifiable way for global allocation of IP address space in a multistakeholder framework, and that they could be improved upon by some new institution, forum, or mechanism?

From my experience of internet technical coordination and other activities sometimes spoken of as "internet governance," I'm willing to be persuaded such issues exist and that some new mechanism might be called for to handle them appropriately. (I wouldn't be here at 7pm on a Friday night if I weren't!) I'm also willing to be persuaded that most of the gaps in "internet governance" are largely gaps in communication among stakeholders and understanding of each other's perspectives, such that the principal work to be done is in communication and persuasion-- telling the governments that they don't need to exercise complete control to make things work, or civil society what's possible technically or what isn't, or the technologists about the policy implications of operational choices.

IOW: I'm fine with an argument that we need to find a way to produce different global internet governance outcomes than we're getting; I can evaluate that on the merits and I assume others can as well. I'm also fine with an argument that we need to find a way to produce better explanations and defenses of the outcomes we're getting.

However, I share Brian's and Andrew's (and other colleagues') puzzlement on the specifics. 

>> I have been having a hard time understanding not just what we are 
>> talking about, but to what end.  
> I hope the statements above help orient you. 

Thank you for attempting to educate those of us who are not policy specialists. I hope the question some of us are asking is more clear now as well.


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