A thin line between governance and control

India pitches for Committee for Internet Related Policies to end the US monopoly on internet


Samir Sachdeva | May 21, 2012

On October 26, 2011 during the 66th session of United Nations (UN) general assembly India made a statement regarding global internet governance. It had proposed a new model of internet governance, a UN Committee for Internet Related Policies (CIRP) which will comprise 50 member states. The committee will be chosen/elected on basis of equitable geographical participation. The main purpose of this committee will be development of international public policies related to internet.

Currently, this role is with California headquartered Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN oversees the assignment of domain names, internet protocol (IP ) addresses, application port numbers on internet. In simple terms all technical and policy-related issues underlying the core infrastructure are administered by ICANN. The board of directors of ICANN is drawn from various technical, business, non- commercial and academics stakeholders of the internet. However, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the United States department of commerce, has a final say in certain matters.

India has pitched for CIRP to end the monopoly of the United States on internet.  However, there is a sharp contrast to what has been suggested by India and what exists currently. In the current structure the role of government is advisory and civil societies/business groups make policy as part of ICANN. The CIRP proposal puts the representatives of 50 member nations to decide policy and have four advisory groups one each - civil society, business, academics and inter-governmental organizations.

In its statement in the UN general assembly, India stated that this move will make internet more inclusive, democratic, participatory, multilateral and transparent in nature. Though India appears right in suggesting an end to the dominance of one country over internet, the issue still remains that should it be internet stakeholders (NGOs, academicians, businessmen etc) or a representative body of governments from the world which should decide on policy matters related to internet.

There are multiple issues like enforcement of intellectual property, data protection, censorship, and network neutrality that need to be addressed globally. These can be enforced by a government body only as the same will require legislations and their implementation.

India’s intent even as stated in its statement in UN was to ensure “that the internet is governed not unilaterally, but in an open, democratic, inclusive and participatory manner, with the participation of all stakeholders, so as to evolve universally acceptable, and globally harmonized policies in important areas”.

Also, with governments across the world moving towards transparency and openness, this global body will also reign in countries like China which put in curbs on free flow of information. A 50-member body rather than controlling information will democratise it instead.

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2012 which concluded on May 18, 2012 has floated an idea of establishing a Standing Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation attached to the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) for governing internet.

But the fact remains that whatever may be the name or the structure, the idea of a global body to govern internet has come.



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