Brussels, 30 September 2009
European Commission welcomes US move to more independent, accountable, international internet governance
Viviane Reding, the EU's Commissioner for Information Society and Media, today welcomed news that ICANN, the body primarily responsible for managing internet domain names, will become more open and accountable to billions of internet users worldwide. As of 30 September, ICANN, the US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, will no longer be subject to the unilateral review by the US Department of Commerce, but by independent review panels appointed by ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and ICANN itself with the involvement of governments around the world. Since 2005, the European Commission has repeatedly called for reform of the governance of the internet's key global resources. This is necessary to ensure important public policy objectives such as freedom of expression and facilitating stable business transactions online. The European Commission is strongly committed to accompany and support the implementation of the reforms announced today, in close cooperation with the EU's 27 Member States.
"I welcome the US administration's decision to adapt ICANN's key role in internet governance to the reality of the 21st century and of a globalised world," said Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "Internet users worldwide can now anticipate that ICANN's decisions on domain names and addresses will be more independent and more accountable, taking into account everyone's interests. External review panels will periodically evaluate ICANN's performance. If effectively and transparently implemented, this reform can find broad acceptance among civil society, businesses and governments alike."
"The European Commission is strongly committed to make this reform a reality by working together with our partners in government, business, and civil society. We will play an active role in ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee and in the further reform of the GAC. The challenge now is to make the GAC, with its enhanced role, more effective in its work, and to further strengthen the dialogue between governments, businesses, and civil society via the Internet Governance Forum. We will also pay close attention to the effect of ICANN's work on competition. I would also encourage all parties to actively explore the possibilities for stronger external appeal mechanisms in relation to decisions of the ICANN Board.
" Independence and accountability for ICANN now look much better on paper. Let's work together to ensure that they also work in practice."
As it became know today, the "Joint Project Agreement" in the US, which at present foresees a unilateral overview of ICANN decision by the US Department of Commerce, will not be extended as of 30 September 2009. It will be replaced by a joint "affirmation of commitments" of the US Government and of ICANN, which represents an important reform of the present governance arrangements. The most important reforms of ICANN include:
More independence from regular periodic reviews by a single government. Decisions taken by ICANN affect internet users world wide and therefore it is important to reflect all those interests.
External accountability involving independent review panels appointed jointly by the GAC and by ICANN. The GAC is open to governments and public authorities from around the world and advises the ICANN Board on public policy aspects of ICANN's activities. These review panels will periodically evaluate ICANN's performance in relation to their public commitments.
The internet is vital to economies and societies everywhere. For many years, the European Commission and EU Member States have actively participated in ICANN's policy making to ensure that European values are respected on the internet such as freedom of speech, privacy, consumer protection, and security.
In June 2009, the European Commission issued a policy document calling for improvement of ICANN's accountability to the international community, the transparency of its decision making and a clearer role of governments in defining public policy aspects of ICANN policy making ( ). Today's announcement indicates that the US shares many of these concerns and objectives.
Another important question in the area of internet governance is the continuation of the Internet Governance Forum, set up for an initial time frame of 5 years, with a first meeting in 2006, which is a unique place for discussion between those involved in internet governance. The European Commission wants it to continue, as it is the only place where all internet related topics can be addressed by a wide range of stakeholders from all over the world, including Parliamentarians.
For internet traffic to reach its destination, domain names and addresses are essential. The organisation responsible for the definition of policies for the global coordination of the Domain Name System (DNS) is ICANN, a private sector, non-profit US corporation based in California. Since its creation in 1998, ICANN has operated under a series of Memoranda of Understanding with the US government which specified its objectives regarding policy making for the DNS. The most recent MoU (called the "Joint Project Agreement") will expire on 30 September 2009. In May, EU Commissioner Viviane Reding outlined her vision for the future of internet governance in a video message ( ):
Growth of internet users by regions of the world
1990-2008, in millions of users
Source: International Telecommunication Union