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As another group rejects proposal, is NETmundial stillborn?

Kevin Murphy, December 5, 2014, 16:44:55 (UTC), Domain Policy

The nascent NETmundial Initiative appears to be in dire straits already, just weeks into its existence, after another influential internet governance body decided against joining.

The Internet Architecture Board, which holds ultimate responsibility for the Request For Comment standards that help the internet remain interoperable, said yesterday that it will not join NetMundial, saying it is “not needed”.

The IAB’s rejection of the initiative follows that of the Internet Society, which said last month that the way NETmundial was being formed was not transparent, bottom-up or decentralized.

NETmundial is deliberately and self-consciously not related to domain names, which is why I’ve paid it scant attention recently, but I think it’s worth a mention because it is the brainchild in part of ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade and the subject of some discussion at ICANN meetings.

The idea behind the initiative is to create a policy body that can look at cross-border internet governance issues not already dealt with in fora such as ICANN or the IETF.

Chehade has been particularly enthusiastic about it as it could create a way to prevent special interests attempting to strong-arm ICANN, as the only “internet governance” entity out there with any real power, into making policies outside of its narrow remit.

The group was founded by ICANN, the government-linked Brazilian Internet Steering Committee and the World Economic Forum. Its name is borrowed from the NETmundial meeting, a policy talking shop that took place in Sao Paolo with the support of the Brazilian government this April.

But it’s come in for criticism for lacking true bottom-up organization.

The original plan was for a Coordinating Council to be created, comprising 20 people from four sectors and five geographic regions, to be selected by ICANN, the WEF and Brazil from a raft of self-nominated individuals.

There were to be another five permanent seats — three for the three organizers, one for the I* technical standards bodies and one for the Internet Governance Forum — but this was reportedly abandoned after ISOC expressed its disapproval of the plan.

Indeed, with the IGF also expressing misgivings about the Council’s make-up, there was the very real possibility of two of the five permanent seats sitting empty.

So far, just 10 days shy of the December 15 deadline, only 20 nominations have been received for the regular council. Four seats currently have no volunteers and four are contested by two people.

There hasn’t been much in the way of contributions to policy discussions either (though this is perhaps understandable for such a young initiative). So far, only two people have put forward ideas for discussion topics. On relates to brain-computer interfaces and the other to cyberbullying.

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