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Internet Governance 18 February 2014

The European Commission’s position on the future of Internet governance

In view of major conferences taking place this year, the adoption of a formal policy position on Internet governance ” Internet Policy and Governance – Europe’s role in shaping the future of Internet governance” by the European Commission on 12 February is a major contribution.

It is the first comprehensive position paper by a governmental stakeholder, in this case the Executive Branch of the European Union which takes the lead and comes up with a vision on the future of Internet governance.  

The role of governments in multistakeholder Internet governance arrangements is one of the key questions that needs clarification and any contribution by governments to this discussion is to be welcomed.

The role of governments was one of the core issues at last year’s World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF) and also the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

While we don’t agree with every detail of the European Commission’s communication, we note that there are key points of alignment between the Commission’s vision and the position of the Internet Society.

This blog post focuses on the commonalities between the two positions

We very much welcome the Commission’s support for the evolution of the current multistakeholder Internet governance model.The Commission identifies transparency, inclusiveness and balance as well as accountability as key principles that should underpin all multistakeholder Internet governance processes. While Internet organizations have each adopted transparency, inclusiveness, balance and accountability through individual normative processes, the Commission’s approach on these very principles and its offer to “work with stakeholders on the exchange of best practices” certainly deserves close consideration. 

Moreover, we welcome the Commission’s support of a single, open, unfragmented network, the support of the implementation of open standards by the European Internet industry and the involvement of the European Internet industry in the development of open Internet standards.

The Internet Society takes pride to be the institutional home of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet’s premier standards developing organization, and takes this opportunity to highlight the fundamental principles of standards development which are set out in the OpenStand paradigm.

The Internet Society stands ready to assist European authorities to familiarize themselves with the work of the IETF and calls on European governments to recognize IETF standards.

The Internet Society also welcomes the Commission’s commitment to supporting, strengthening and reforming the IGF.  This is also high on our priority list.

We have put forward a proposal that should enable the IGF to produce more tangible outcomes, in line with the Recommendations of the Working Group on Improvements of the IGF. In response to a request for input by the IGF Secretariat, the Internet Society made a submission that seeks inspiration from the IETF in terms of producing outcome documents.

We believe this is in line with the Commission’s objective “to improve the quality and format of IGF outcomes to enhance its impact on global Internet governance and policy.”

We share the Commission’s vision for the globalization of ICANN and the IANA functions. This is in line with the Montevideo statement issued by the leaders of the organizations responsible for the Internet’s technical infrastructure, which is mentioned in the Commission’s communication.

Finally, we welcome the Commission’s commitment to work with partners to rebuild trust in the Internet and we look forward to taking up this offer. This will be a long process. In getting this process started we think that the focus should be placed on ethical data handling, data protection and a right to privacy as essential building blocks in restoring online trust. 

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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