In the wake of the Commerce Department’s announcement that it will give up control of ICANN, perhaps only one thing is certain: We, the world’s Internet users, are witnessing the dawn of a new era in Internet governance.
The question is – what will define this new era?
Not surprisingly, politicians and lawmakers have jumped to a range of conclusions. While some are staunchly critical of and pessimistic about the Commerce Department’s move, others are supportive and at least cautiously optimistic, as Politico’s Jessica Meyers and Erin Mershon explain in “Internet Transition Triggers GOP Backlash.”
Those on the critical and pessimistic end of the spectrum suggest that, in relinquishing control of ICANN, the U.S. government has initiated the slow death of free speech on the Internet. In a Bloomberg Businessweek article titled “The U.S. Gives Up Its Control of the Free-Speech Internet,” staff writer Brendan Greeley writes that “It’s a bad sign that the U.S. has chosen to give up this power. It means that the administration doesn’t feel that it can get away with holding on to it, diplomatically, which means that on this issue, we no longer enjoy the support of countries such as Germany.”
Those on the supportive end of the spectrum include Google, AT&T, and Comcast, according to a recent Time.com article (now available at cnnmoney.com). The same article concludes with a quotation from Dr. Laura DeNardis, Internet scholar, American University Professor and Beyond the Dot 2014 panelist: “”I expect that everything will go well, but the Devil will be in the details,” she says. “If everything goes smoothly, everyone should still be able to watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix.”
Somewhere in the middle live those who applaud the move while also expressing apprehension and concern. In a recent post, Lily Hay Newman, lead blogger for Slate’s Future Tense, concludes, “The United States is doing the right thing by stepping back and letting the international community develop a new system for backing ICANN. In the next few years there won’t be major or even noticeable differences in the Internet, but over time this change could cause unexpected problems and destabilization. Scary stuff.”
For those who follow Internet governance issues, the focus now turns to ICANN49, the upcoming public stakeholder meeting in Singapore from March 23-27. During the weeklong meeting, ICANN will begin the process of forming a new framework for Internet governance.
FairWinds Partners will be “on the ground” and reporting to clients as well as the greater Internet community through this blog, twitter (@fairwinds and @gTLDstrategy), and email updates. Click here to subscribe to FairWinds email updates and blogs.
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