An Information Technology and Innovation Foundation panel held in Washington D.C. began to plumb the complexities of the planned U.S. relinquishment of the Internet address system to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Entitled Bully or Bodyguard? Assessing the Proper Role of the United States in Internet Governance, the panel discussion underscored just how delicate the transfer will be.
Whether bully, bodyguard – or, according to one panelist, a beleaguered, imperfect overseer – the main quest will be to ensure that ICANN is empowered rather than overrun by other governments, including governments hostile to democracy and free speech.
Panelists noted that, for whatever its flaws, ICANN and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) were, together, strong advocates of free markets and freedom of speech online.
So how can the NTIA ensure that ICANN will be ready and able to handle all that will come its way?
Steve Del Bianco, Netchoice, advocated putting ICANN through stress tests to guage its readiness to take on oversight of the Domain Name System. What would ICANN do in the event of the loss of technological or monetary capability to run the root, for example? An ICANN prepared with answers for various scenarios will be an ICANN prepared for the future, Del Bianco said.
Phil Corwin, Virtualaw, and Eli Dourado, George Mason University, both noted that Congress can play a helpful role by asking the right questions as it started doing at a hearing this week. Congress must also be prepared to pressure the NTIA should the transition plan take a wrong turn, so long as it is mindful of the international perception of such involvement.
One thing is clear: The multistakeholder community must come together and make sure that this transition considers all relevant voices.
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