The U.S. will continue to fight any attempts to give individual governments greater control over the Internet.
That was the message from Lawrence Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration at a Media Insititute luncheon Monday (Sept. 29).
The International Telecommunications union is meeting in October for its Plenipotentiary Conference in Korea and he said he expected some countries to attempt to steer ITU toward greater control of the Internet.
"The U.S. delegation, headed by Ambassador Danny Sepulveda, will strongly oppose such efforts," he said. "And we hope and expect that the growing acceptance of the multistakeholder approach by nations, especially those in the developing world, will offer a strong rebuttal to proposals to give governments control over the Internet."
Strickling also put in a plug for NTIA's announcement last March that it would transition U.S. oversight functions over ICANN, the domain naming system (DNS) body, to a nongovermental, multistakeholder model.
That got pushback from House Republicans who said they were "concerned the transition as outlined by NTIA "may not ensure that the Internet remains free and open in the absence of U.S. oversight."
Democrats say that the U.S.'s is a mostly ceremonial function, that the plan has always been to transfer that to a multistakeholder model, and that not to do so sends the wrong signal about single-government authority over the Internet.
NTIA has said it would not turn over the Internet naming function to a government-led or controlled model, which is the main concern of critics of the hand-off.
Strickling reiterated that commitment. He said before any hand-off framework is approved it must "support and enhance the multistakeholder model of Internet governance, in that it should be developed by the multistakeholder community and have broad community support. More specifically, we will not accept a transition proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution. Second, the proposal must maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the domain name system. Third, it must meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services. And finally, it must maintain the openness of the Internet."
Currently, the transition is in the early stages, with a coordinating group this month releasing a tentative timeline for drafting a plan, which would be a transition proposal by July in advance of the September 2015 expiration of the contract. But he emphasized that September date could move. "We have the option to extend the current contract for up to four years."
Strickling said the it was not true that the U.S. decision to transition out of its oversight role in the ICANN DNS body had emboldened some authoritarian countries to try and get more control over the Internet. He said those efforts, he cited Russia for one, began long before that. He said the U.S. move to a multistakeholder model would help prevent any single government or group of governments from taking over that domain naming system.
He said that while the U.S. was relinquishing what had been a limited, largely clerical role in the ICANN naming functions, "we are not walking away from ICANN or exiting from the debate over Internet governance. We will continue to be vocal and active players in all Internet governance forums including ICANN."