EC Continues To Pressure US Over Internet Reform

Separating IANA from ICANN would make internet governance more international, the EC believes

The European Commission is continuing to push the US to make the management of the Internet more globally inclusive.

Speaking this week at Internet management body ICANN’s 38th international body in Brussels, vice-president of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said that although she was pleased by the progress made so far she was hoping for further action to make governance of the internet truly international.

“Nowadays, how could any organisation with global responsibilities not be accountable to all of us?,” she said. “In this respect, just like the EU welcomed the openings made in the Affirmation of Commitment last year, I am hopeful that the expiry of the IANA contract [Internet Assigned Numbers Authority] next year will be turned into an opportunity for more international cooperation serving the global public interest.”

US Policy Not Defendable

Last May EC commissioner Vivian Reding called on US authorities to loosen their grip on ICANN. She said that 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 at the time.

US authorities appeared to heed the calls and last September ICANN and the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration signed a permanent agreement giving the international global community and the private sector more control over the Internet’s global domain naming system.

International criticism has grown since the birth of ICANN 11 years ago that the United States has too much control over the body.

The EC is hoping that the expiration of the contract which underpins the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) will allow for more aspects of internet governance to be truly international.

The IANA is the group which manages the Internet’s domain naming system (including issues such as promoting IP version 6) and is currently controlled by ICANN. In August 2006, the US Department of Commerce extended the IANA contract with ICANN to 2011. With this contract up for negotiation again in 2011, bodies such as the EC are pushing for the IANA being separated from ICANN.

Top Level Domains

Kroes also touched on the importance of expanding the number of top level domains available. “Such additions are probably irreversible. So these steps need to be taken carefully, taking into consideration more than just immediate commercial interests,” she said. “Managing this expansion and avoiding chaos will be a big challenge. In a sense, it will be a test of ICANN’s governance and I recall that the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) had already provided advice on public policy principles to the ICANN Board as early as 2007.”

The EC digital agenda leader also pushed for more cooperation on internet security. “Take the issue of security and resilience: we need to fight against spam, identity theft, phishing and other evolving types of crime on the Internet. Both the public and private sectors have a joint obligation to act,” she said. “This approach has to go hand-in-hand with ensuring the Internet itself is not vulnerable to any large scale failure, whether as a result of an accident or a deliberate attack.”

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