Conference moves independent Internet governance closer

The move to a more multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance took another step with large agreement on the final statement from the NETmundial conference in Brazil.

The non-binding statement agreed to by the majority of the countries, agencies, technical and public groups from 46 countries said that the Internet “should be preserved as a fertile and innovative environment based on an open system architecture, with voluntary collaboration, collective stewardship and participation.”

“Technical experts” should resolve technical issues “in the appropriate venue in a manner consistent with this open, collaborative approach,” the statement added.

Evan Leibovich, president of the Internet Society of Canada (ISOC), who spoke at the conference, called the two-day session “fairly significant milestone” because it came after the failure of the International Telecommunication Union’s conference in Dubai in 2012 to agree on the Internet’s future.

He said in an interview this morning that what NETmundial did was bring together those who are for and against independent internet governance together “to prove that you could come up with some good decisions and definitive language. And the fact that so much of this got done in two days is all the more amazing.”

On the other hand, he would have preferred stronger language in the final statement’s section on unlawful surveillance (see below).

The final statement was also enough for the United States, which according to a report from Computerworld U.S., was pleased. Facing complaints that the Internet is dominated by the U.S., the Obama administration is planning to end its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) — as long as ICANN can replace it with an independent governance body.

“From the United States perspective, NETmundial was a huge success,” Michael Daniel, special assistant to the president and White House cybersecurity coordinator, was quoted as saying. Among other things, the meeting’s concluding statement endorsed the planned transition of control over Internet addressing from the U.S. to a group of players from around the world, he said.

There is still a long way to go to satisfy critics of the present groups of technical organizations that in various ways oversee the Internet. Groups like ICANN have to set up new regimes. And it isn’t clear if for political reasons governments like Russia will ever see the Internet as an independent entity.

Russia and Cuba said they didn’t agree with the conference’s final statement, according to Daniel Sepulveda, the U.S. State Department’s coordinator for international communications and information policy.

Conference organizers noted that more than 180 contributions had been received from all stakeholders around the
globe before the statement was crafted.

The non-binding statement also said that access to the Internet is a human rights as reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. “Rights that people have offline must also be protected online,” the statement said, including freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, privacy (including not being subject to arbitrary or unlawful surveillance, collection, treatment and use of personal data), and the right to access information consistent with copyright laws.

‘”Security, stability and resilience of the Internet should be a key objective of all stakeholders in Internet governance,” the statement also said.

Industry Canada had at least one official at the conference, Leibovich said. The department hasn’t issued an official statement on the conference results.


Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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