The US as Keeper of a ‘Free’ Internet? by Rudolf Rijgersberg

Rudolf Rijgersberg, Research Fellow Netherlands Institute for International Relations ‘Clingendael’ looks at the United States’ role in internet oversight in light of the imminent expiration of the Joint Project Agreement between the Department of Commerce and ICANN.Rijgersberg says that “Although ICANN is operationally self-sufficient and the decentralized DNS structure stimulates competition and innovation, ICANN’s political dependence on the US is unacceptable to the international community.”However Rijgersberg also finds fault with internationalisation proposals put forward by the EU and UN, saying they “would effectively put the innovative character of the Internet at risk. This consideration should play a more prominent role in the foreign and Internet policies of the individual EU and UN member-states. Instead of viewing US oversight as potential risk to national communication infrastructures, there is much to be said for cherishing the blessings of US oversight and maintaining the current status quo.”On the EU proposal for a more global body to take on ICANN’s role, Rijgersberg says this is “unrealistic. Because technical and political decisions go hand in hand on the Internet, it forecloses the advocated separation between political and technical governance.””Although both proposals for internationalizing DNS oversight may have their pros and cons, the devil is not as much in the details as in the general supposition. An internationalization of oversight creates a centralization of Internet governance with comprehensive features.”He goes on to say, “Public responsibilities generally presuppose public accountability mechanisms. However, it is unrealistic to assume that ICANN, as private organization, can offer constitutional accountability mechanisms. This is why international legitimacy, making ICANN accountable to an intergovernmental umbrella organization, is seen as offering a more secure basis for ICANN’s operations in the public interest than unilateral American oversight does.”International oversight though, Rijgersberg says, leads to a centralisation of internet governance that “puts the innovative character of the Internet at risk.”Rijgersberg’s article covers a number of other issues and then he concludes his 2,500 word essay by saying “the current situation with the US as keeper of a relatively free Internet, is to be preferred to a global monopolist created by intergovernmental supervision. Instead of viewing US oversight as a potential risk to national communication infrastructures, individual states should cherish the blessings of US supervision and seriously consider maintaining the current status quo by actively promoting yet another extension of the joint project agreement between ICANN and the US government.”To read this article by Rudolf Rijgersberg, Research Fellow Netherlands Institute for International Relations ‘Clingendael’, in full, see:
www.circleid.com/posts/the_us_as_keeper_of_a_free_internet/