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Internet Governance: EU Commissioner Reding calls for full privatisation and full accountability of ICANN as of 1 October

European Commission - IP/09/696   04/05/2009

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IP/09/696

Brussels, 4 May 2009

Internet Governance: EU Commissioner Reding calls for full privatisation and full accountability of ICANN as of 1 October

In a video posted on her website this morning, Viviane Reding, EU- Commissioner for Information Society and Media, called for greater transparency and accountability in Internet Governance as of October 2009. Key decisions related to Internet Governance, like top level domains and managing the internet's core directory, are currently made by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a private not-for profit corporation established in California. So far, ICANN has been operating under an agreement with the US Department of Commerce. However, this agreement expires on 30 September this year. For the time after, Commissioner Reding today outlined a new governance model for the internet. This would include a fully private and accountable ICANN, accompanied by an independent judicial body, as well as a "G12 for Internet Governance" – a multilateral forum for governments to discuss general internet governance policy and security issues.

"I trust that President Obama will have the courage, the wisdom and the respect for the global nature of the internet to pave the way in September for a new, more accountable, more transparent, more democratic and more multilateral form of Internet Governance," said EU Commissioner Viviane Reding in her Internet video message this morning. "The time to act is now. And Europe will be ready to support President Obama in his efforts."

Reding stressed that "a moment of truth will come on 30 September this year, when the current agreement between ICANN and the US Government expires. This opens the door for the full privatisation of ICANN; and it also raises the question of to whom ICANN should be accountable, as from 1 October."

ICANN deals with some of most sensitive issues related to Internet Governance, such as top level domains or management of the internet address system that ensures that millions of computers can connect to each other. ICANN was established in 1998 in California, under an agreement with the US government.

"Accountability of ICANN is a must," said Reding. "The Clinton administration's decision to progressively privatize the internet's domain name and addressing system is the right one. In the long run, it is not defendable that the government department of only one country has oversight of an internet function which is used by hundreds of millions of people in countries all over the world."

EU Commissioner Reding also outlined how a new model of Internet Governance could be shaped after 30 September. It could include in particular the following:

  • A fully privatised and independent ICANN complying with the best standards of corporate governance, in particular with those on financial transparency and internal accountability, and subject to effective judicial review.
  • A multilateral forum where governments can discuss general internet governance policy issues, such as a "G12 for Internet Governance" – an informal group of government representatives that meets at least twice a year and can make, by majority, recommendations to ICANN where appropriate. This group would provide swift reaction in case of threats to the stability, security and openness of the internet. To be geographically balanced, this "G-12 for Internet Governance" would include two representatives from each North America, South America, Europe and Africa, three representatives from Asia and Australia, as well as the Chairman of ICANN as a non-voting member. International Organisations with competences in this field could be given observer status.

On 6 May, the European Commission will host a first public hearing in Brussels to give Europe's Internet Community a chance to voice their expectations for the future of Internet Governance.

Background

For many years, the European Union has played a major role in international discussions on Internet Governance. The European Commission has repeatedly called for a system of internet governance fully entrusted to the private sector without government interference in the internet's day-to-day management (see IP/06/1297) and has been supporting an open multi-stakeholder policy dialogue on internet governance and development (IP/06/1491). The European Commission also participates in the Governmental Advisory Committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), whose main purpose is to advise ICANN on public policy aspects of its coordination activities.

Commissioner Reding's video message is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/reding/video/index_en.htm

Further information on the public hearing on Internet Governance, organised by the European Commission on 6 May in Brussels will be available at the following link:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/internet_gov/index_en.htm


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