ICANN's cozy relationship with the US must end, says EU

Internet governance should be more global according to a new EU policy paper

The exclusive relationship of ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) with the U.S. must end, the European Union's digital agenda chief said Wednesday.

California-based ICANN is responsible for the assignment of top-level domains and has a longstanding operating agreement with the U.S. However, after the revelations by Edward Snowden of widespread surveillance of the Internet by the National Security Agency, many countries have questioned the arrangement.

The historical relationship, noted in ICANN's Affirmation of Commitments, is outdated and the governance of the Internet must become more global, said the E.U. Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

Kroes was presenting the European Commission's new policy on Internet governance, which rejects any United Nations or governmental takeover of Internet governance and calls for a move to globalize ICANN.

Kroes wants a clear timeline for making ICANN more "transparent, accountable and inclusive." She said the role of public authorities must be clearly defined to be consistent with an open and free Internet and that remedies for conflicts between national jurisdictions must be established.

"I agree that governments have a crucial role to play, but top-down approaches are not the right answer. We must strengthen the multi-stakeholder model," said Kroes.

The policy paper notes that in 2005 the U.S. committed to "working with the international community to address the public policy concerns with respect to the management of country-code top-level domains (ccTLD)" but that this has not yet been fully implemented. In presenting Wednesday's policy paper the European Commission is attempting to push such reform through more quickly.

ICANN's Vice President Europe, Nigel Hickson, welcomed the policy. "ICANN is pleased that the European Commission is emphasizing the need to sustain the multi-stakeholder approach to governing the Internet," he said in a statement. That approach is globally inclusive, and voices from business, government and independent Internet users are welcome, he added.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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