A Free Internet

Liz Sweezey ⬥ 26 August

A few weeks ago, I joined Josh and the CADNA legislative team on the Hill to attend meetings with staffers from various Senators and Representatives offices. CADNA has been briefing staffers on the issues facing the Internet and proposing that a commission be created to review the structure and operations of ICANN– the governing body of the Internet that has day-to-day responsibility for establishing policies and managing the operations of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS). The commission, which CADNA suggests could be presidentially appointed and comprised of members of Congress, the Obama administration, business and consumer advocates and scholars, would assess whether ICANN is successfully fulfilling its regulatory duties.

One staffer, who is well informed about ICANN, cybersquatting and the future roll out of new TLDs, brought up an interesting point about the proposed legislation. She commented that we would receive push back from those supportive of a free Internet. Operative word: “free.”

The Internet – the speed with which it has grown and the need to secure it – has become a hot topic in the last few months. It seems that with the use of the Internet to keep voters and supporters informed, there has been a lot of talk about the importance of keeping the Internet “free,” and that strict regulations of this form of media would be unconstitutional.

But looking at the Internet and its governance today, is the Internet truly free?

It has been said that ICANN, the governing body of the Internet, has been “hijacked,” or captured from within.  Freedom does not suggest a free-for-all, or the power in the hands of a few.  Freedom comes with responsibility, and checks and balances.

There is currently a proposal within ICANN to restructure the GNSO to allow the registries and registrars to have a 50% voting bloc.  With the other half of the votes scattered between business, IP, consumers, etc., who are bound to disagree at some point, the registrar/registry vote will rarely lose a vote and therefore will continue to pass their policies and wield the most power.

In order for the Internet to be truly free, the power should be shared by all stakeholders, not hoarded by the hands of a few and plagued by conflicts of interest.  ICANN should be audited under the eyes of objective scrutiny, just like any other government agency and corporate entity. Oversight should be exercised and checks and balances should be in place.  Without these, the Internet will never truly be free. 

Tags: businesses, CADNA, commission, Congress, consumer advocates, DNS, Domain Name System, GNSO, government agency, Hill, ICANN, Internet, Internet governance, Internet stakeholders, IP, Obama Administration, oversight, registrars, registries, TLDs

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