Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for Internet-related issues, called today for a new multilateral approach to Internet governance once the current system expires at the end of September.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a private, nonprofit corporation established in California. It is responsible for some of the most sensitive issues related to Internet governance, such as top-level domains and management of the Domain Name System, which ensures that millions of computers can connect to each other. ICANN is partly controlled by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Earlier attempts to internationalize ICANN failed.
Reding said the change of administration in Washington offered renewed hope in this direction. "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," she said in a video blog posted on her Web site. The time to act is now, she added. "And Europe will be ready to support President Obama in his efforts," she said.
ICANN's remit expires on Sept. 30. Reding proposed a successor body of the same name that is fully privatized adn that applies strict transparency rules. She also suggested setting up an independent judicial body as well as an intergovernmental body, possibly based on the G12 forum of governments from around the world, to oversee ICANN in future.
"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," Reding said.
A "G12 for Internet governance" would be an informal group of government representatives that meets at least twice a year. The group would provide swift reaction in case of threats to the stability, security and openness of the Internet, Reding suggested.
To be geographically balanced, this body would include two representatives from North America, South America, Europe and Africa, three from Asia and one from Australia, as well as the chairman of ICANN as a nonvoting member, she added. On Wednesday, the European Commission will hold a public hearing in Brussels on the future of Internet governance.