CIRA praises Ottawa’s support on Internet

Canada’s Internet domain registry is very pleased with the support Treasury Board president Tony Clement gave the current Internet governance structure ahead of what is expected to be a testy international conference in December.

“Having very strong support for the multi-stakeholder model going into it I think is critical, given the number of proposals that will be under discussion,” Michael Stewart, general counsel Canadian Internet Registry Authority (CIRA), said in an interview Friday.

He was commenting on a speech given last week by Clement at a Toronto meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). CIRA, which manages the .ca domain, was the host of the conference.

“This multi-stakeholder model has served us very well,” Clement said, referring to ICANN’s authority over top level domain names. ICANN is a Los Angeles-based independent agency with board representatives from around the world. It is separate from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) a United Nations agency, which by its nature, is dominated by governments.

It is believed a number of governments including Russia and China will try at the December meeting of the World Conference on International Telecommunications will try to put Internet governance under the ITU.

But Clement repeated previous support given by Industry Minister Christian Paradis. The current governance system “has given the Internet the freedom and flexibility to develop into the transformative technology it is today,” Clement said, “Perhaps even more importantly, it has ensured that no single stakeholder or group dominates the decision-making process – be it governments or others.

“I can assure you that Canada will continue to be a staunch supporter of this model, and that we will continue to vigorously support organizations that practice this model of consensus-based policy development,” he added.

The federal government’s support is expected to be repeated again this week in Montreal at a meeting of iCanada and the World Congress on Information Technology in advance of the Dubai conference. 

There the 10-day World Conference on International Telecommunications will discuss how to update the nearly 25-year old international telecommunications regulations that govern voice, video and data communications. Those regs didn’t take into account the fledgling Internet. Now, however, there are voices that are calling for change, including European phone companies that want new traffic management and financing schemes to boost revenue needed to build high-speed networks.

For a backgrounder on this aspect, see this story.

Stewart said it’s important that any effort to give governments power over the Internet should be resisted.

“The (current) model works,” he said. “There may be bad actors on the Internet but at the same time the multi-stakeholder model is serving us well by making it the innovative, secure and open thing we know today. There are probably better means of addressing those concerns rather than making a government-to-government governance model.”

On Monday morning the Organization for Economic Development issued a report concluding the Internet has developed an efficient market for connectivity that has produced low prices, as well as promotes efficiency and innovation.
The OECD said a survey of 4,300 networks, representing 140,000 direct exchanges of traffic on the Internet, found that 99.5 per cent of peering agreements were on a handshake basis with no written contract and the exchange of data happening with no money changing hands. It also noted that in many locations multilateral agreements are in place, using a so-called router-server. where hundreds of networks will exchange traffic for free with any network that joins the agreement.

“As incumbent networks adopt IP technology, there is a risk of conflict between legacy pricing and regulatory models and the more efficient Internet model of traffic exchange,” the report says. “By drawing a “bright line” between the two models, regulatory authorities can ensure that the inefficiencies of traditional voice markets will not take hold on the Internet.

… That these “rules of the game” are so ubiquitous and serviceable indicates a degree of public unanimity that an external regulator would be hard-pressed to create. The parties to these agreements include not only Internet backbone, access, and content distribution networks, but also universities, NGOs, branches of government, individuals, businesses and enterprises of all sorts—a universality of the constituents of the Internet that extends far beyond the reach of any regulatory body’s influence.”

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