Taking a Stand

Early Friday morning, Vint Cerf, Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist, announced on the Google Blog that he has signed a petition asserting his and Google’s stance against governmental monopoly on Internet governance.

The petition follows a recent announcement by the United Nations Committee on Science and Technology that only governments would be able to participate in a working group tasked with examining improvements to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The Internet Governance Caucus, the Internet Society, the Internet Chamber of Commerce and a variety of other organizations published a joint letter and an online petition to vocalize their protests over the UN’s move. These groups believe that the current bottom-up, open model of governance works to both protect users from vested interests and encourage innovation.

This point of view is shared by many in the Internet community. However, most also overlook the fact that one particular Internet governance body is not run in such an open fashion. Despite its claims of a stakeholder-based, bottom-up model, ICANN, which is responsible for coordinating Internet addresses, overtly favors the interests of a minority group of stakeholders – domain name registrars and registries – over those of users and the greater Internet community.

A majority of ICANN’s revenue comes directly from registrars and registries and its voting processes are designed in such a way that gives these groups an inherent advantage. Now that key Internet thinkers like Vint Cerf are shining a light on open Internet governance, it’s about time they put ICANN under the microscope as well.

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