European Commission praises ICANN, but wants more independence from U.S., transparency and accountability

The European Commission last week called for more transparency and multilateral accountability in the governance of the internet while praising ICANN saying that the organisation has worked well.Praising the private-sector nature of ICANN, the Commission said it “agrees that private companies should continue to take the lead in the day-to-day management of the operation of the internet, as long as they are accountable and independent. The Commission also believes that decisions about the internet, especially those about openness and security, should be taken in a transparent and accountable manner because they affect everyone around the globe. ICANN currently operates under a Joint Project Agreement with the US Department of Commerce which expires on 30 September 2009. In the view of the European Commission, future internet governance arrangements should reflect the key role that the global network has come to play for all countries.”On the future of ICANN, Viviane Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for Information Society and Media said that as ICANN approaches an “historic point in its development,” she asks if ICANN will “become a fully independent organisation, accountable to the global internet community?” Reding says Europeans would expect so and this is what Reding will push for, calling on the U.S. government and the E.U. to work together to achieve this.In a communication entitled “Internet governance: the next steps,” the Commission “made proposals for the governance of the internet to be more open, transparent and inclusive,” with a key objective being “that of accountability.””Internet usage and penetration is now so high, especially in developed countries such as those of the EU, that it has become a critical resource, where any serious disruption in service can have potentially catastrophic effects on society and the economy,” the communication said.”The EU has also always given political priority to the developmental aspects of Internet governance, and the importance of bridging the ‘digital divide’, the communication goes on to say. “The first billion Internet users have been largely from the developed world, and the initial governance decisions and structures were, not surprisingly, mostly made by participants from developed countries. The next billion users will mostly come from the developing world, however, and their interests must be taken into account in any governance arrangements made for the future.”The statement was described as “encouraging in part, but mostly disappointing” by Milton Mueller on the Internet Governance blog. While Mueller writes “we appreciate the willingness of the EU to put some pressure on the U.S. to solve ICANN’s problems in a more globally inclusive way,” he writes “the statement seems to propose a move backwards to a more traditional intergovernmental process, rather than a more open transnational, multistakeholder approach.”Meanwhile a report in OS News says “There are two sides to this issue: a practical one, and a philosophical one. Practically, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to change all that much about how the internet is governed. ICANN and the US government have ensured that the internet has a free flow of information – no matter how objectionable (but still legal) some content may be. This is intrinsically a good thing, as that’s what the internet is all about.”To read more on this see:

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