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EU Wants ICANN Free Of US Government Control

Less government involvement in a fully privatised ICANN is the way forward according to European regulators

In a rare turnabout, European authorities are pushing the US government to embrace capitalism when it comes to the Internet governing body ICANN and fully privatise the organisation.

In a video statement released this week, EU commissioner Viviane Reding said that Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) should become fully privatised and accountable to a G12 style council of countries rather than just the US.

Currently ICANN is a not for profit organisation, established in California, with ties to the US Department of Commerce. However according to the EU, this agreement with the US government expires on 30 September. Reding has called on US authorities, and President Obama in particular, to make ICANN a standalone company but open to international scrutiny.

“I trust that President Obama will have the courage, the wisdom and the respect for the global nature of the internet to pave the way in September for a new, more accountable, more transparent, more democratic and more multilateral form of Internet Governance,” said Reding in her video message. “The time to act is now. And Europe will be ready to support President Obama in his efforts.”

Reding added that at the end of the day it did not make sense for a global medium such as the Internet to be managed by one country and the US should allow other nations to have a stake in ICANN’s actions.

“In the long run, it is not defendable that the government department of only one country has oversight of an internet function which is used by hundreds of millions of people in countries all over the world,” she said.

The European Commission is planning to hold a public hearing this week in Brussels to discuss the future governance of the Internet.

According to a statement from the European Commission, it “has repeatedly called for a system of internet governance fully entrusted to the private sector without government interference in the internet’s day-to-day management”.

Despite calling for less government involvement in ICANN, Reding also detailed plans for the establishment of a G12-style panel of countries to feedback to the organisation. Instead of being answerable to the one country, ICANN would have the involvement of 12.

The EC is calling for a “multilateral forum where governments can discuss general internet governance policy issues, such as a “G12 for Internet Governance” – an informal group of government representatives that meets at least twice a year and can make, by majority, recommendations to ICANN where appropriate”.

The panel would consist of two representatives from each North America, South America, Europe and Africa, three representatives from Asia and Australia, as well as the Chairman of ICANN as a non-voting member, the EC said.