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US raises ITU bogeyman as Chehade pushes for exit

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2013, 17:07:14 (UTC), Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade and a US ambassador today both talked up the multistakeholder model as a cure to concerns about PRISM and related surveillance programs.

But the US warned against using the spying scandal to push internet governance into the hands of “centralized intergovernmental control”, which I’m taking to mean the International Telecommunications Union.

Chehade and Ambassador Danny Sepulveda, US coordinator for international communications and information policy, were speaking at the opening ceremony of the Internet Governance Forum in Bali, Indonesia.

Chehade went first, telling the audience that ICANN plans to set up legal structures in other countries in addition to the US, following on from the three-hub strategy he put in place earlier this year.

It’s part of his effort to internationalize ICANN, he said.

“While we are a California corporation today there is nothing that precludes us from being also, in addition to that, a legal organization in other places, and we intend to do that in order to make ICANN a more international organization,” he said.

He went on to say something that could be interpreted as his intention to get rid of or renegotiate the Affirmation of Commitments with the US government:

We also believe our commitment to the world should be indeed to the world and not to any particular stakeholder, and we will work towards that and change that.

Minutes later, Sepulveda took the stage to more or less agree with Chehade — at least at a high level — whilst simultaneously warning about too much governmental control over the internet.

He said:

The internet today is no more any one country’s than any others. It is no more any one stakeholder’s than any others.

We support an open dialogue on the modernization and evolution of the multistakeholder system that enables the operation of the global internet. Bottom-up, inclusive, cooperative efforts to empower users and enable innovation, free from arbitrary government control, is what the US has been pulling for all along.

He directly addressed the Montevideo declaration, which I wrote about earlier today, which he said was a call “to modernize the internet’s governing system and make it more inclusive”.

The declaration, he said, “should be seen as an opportunity to seek that broad inclusion and for organizing multistakeholder responses to outstanding internet issues”.

“We must work together with these organizations, in good faith, on these important issues,” he said.

“We should however guard against recent arguments for centralized intergovernmental control of the internet that have used recent news stories about intelligence programs for their justification,” he said.

This seems to be a reference to the ITU, the standard US bogeyman when it comes to control over ICANN.

Watch Chehade’s speech here, then fast forward to 1:25 to hear Sepulveda’s response.

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Comments (3)

  1. Rubens Kuhl says:

    ITU to ICANN:
    I’m your boogie man, I’m your boogie man.
    Turn me on!
    I’m your boogie man, I’m your boogie man.
    I’ll do what you want.
    (KC & The Sunshine Band)

  2. Philip Corwin says:

    Good piece Kevin.
    But now that Fadi has said that ICANN absolutely intends to establish legal residence in additional jurisdictions, are you going to revisit your view expressed after his Seoul remarks that ICANN wasn’t moving to Switzerland?
    It’s absolutely clear that it intends to downgrade its US presence – and that this will inevitably raise the question of whether this is consistent with the letter and spirit of the AOC.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      ICANN isn’t moving to Switzerland.

      Fadi was pretty clear that the non-US legal structures will be in addition to, not a replacement for, the US HQ, which is what I reported at the time.

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