Twenty-five… global… and surpassing expectations! That’s the Internet, driving economic growth, job creation, education, and production efficiencies; and enriching our lives and our communities, all around the world.
The Internet works so well, and has expanded so quickly, that we tend to take for granted what made it possible. All of this has been brought to citizens of the world by a private-sector-led, multistakeholder governance model that is flat, decentralized, and consensus-based. Governments have a role, but so too do other interested and competent stakeholders including, perhaps most significantly, the experts and independent bodies that make crucial contributions to the technical operation of the Internet.
Early on, the U.S. government recognized the important role the private sector and Internet users play in managing the Internet’s core functions. It supported efforts of the Internet community to form a private, dedicated, and nonprofit corporation to handle certain essential technical functions including responsibility for allocation of domain names and IP addresses, for protocols, and for root servers that together authoritatively map website names to IP addresses. These functions comprise the Domain Name System (DNS) that is operated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).
In 1998, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) selected the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, to manage the DNS precisely because of its focus on being open and consensus-based. A decade later In 2009, the U.S. took an important step in support of ICANN’s transition to an independent, private-sector-led multistakeholder organization by establishing a framework that enhanced ICANN’s independence while, at the same time, putting measures in place to assure ICANN remains transparent and accountable.
The Internet has thrived in an environment that allowed ICANN to operate without the type of government intrusion that would have impeded global growth and development. Approximately 147 million people were using the Internet when ICANN was founded in 1998. Today, there are more than 2.7 billion users all over the world. The U.S. can be proud of being a leader in shaping the governance model that has brought such rapid and stable growth. And now, we are at another important moment in the long-standing evolution of the global Internet.
Today, NTIA announced its intent to transition domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community, and called upon ICANN to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s DNS. NTIA made clear that any transition proposal must have broad community support and address four principles: support and enhance the multistakeholder model; maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS; meet the needs and expectations of global customers and partners of the IANA services; and maintain the openness of the Internet. Wisely, NTIA made clear that it would not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution. The solution must be found in the private-sector-led, multistakeholder model and cannot become controlled by governments or inter-governmental institutions.
This is an important step in the ongoing evolution of the global Internet. NTIA is to be commended for its historical stewardship, its current thoughtful and pro-active approach, and its global leadership throughout. The U.S. is looking to the future, promoting leadership and ideas from the global multistakeholder community, and establishing clear criteria to ensure the stability and security of a remarkably well-functioning system. We expect that other governments and stakeholders will join with the U.S. in committing to this vision.
As we move forward, it’s vital that the global multistakeholder arrangement envisioned by NTIA remain independent from government control, yet accountable to its mission. Stable, yet open to evolution. Today, some countries and institutions are advocating for inter-governmental control of the Internet. This would undermine the Internet, put at risk the stability that is crucial to its operation and growth, and stifle its unprecedented capacity for economic and social development. ICANN was first created to reduce government control over important Internet functions, and going forward these functions must remain free of undue government influence.
NTIA has made this initiative at the right time. It has provided a blueprint for how the multistakeholder community can further internationalize the governance of the Internet, while critically preserving the security, stability and dynamism that we all require. Next week, the ICANN community meets in Singapore, presenting an important opportunity for the multistakeholder community to begin this important work.
AT&T has a tradition of working with stakeholders around the world on this effort, and we believe NTIA’s initiative will lead to even more thoughtful discussions about how to ensure a stable, secure, and open Internet for the future. We are not kidding ourselves about how important and challenging this task will be. Only with concerted, good faith effort and collaboration will the world community define an operating model that is globally accountable yet independent, and that preserves the reliability, security, and scalability essential to the operation of the Internet.