In response to large-scale surveillance by the NSA, the European Commission is pushing to reduce US domination of the Internet. On Wednesday, Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for digital affairs, called for, “more transparent, accountable and inclusive governance” of the Internet in a statement released by the EC.
In the global governance model proposed, the EU proposes to act as “an honest broker” in matters affecting the way the Internet is managed and run. Kroes made a direct link in the statement between the need to switch to a global model and the large-scale surveillance of the US government, revealed by NSA informer Edward Snowden. The EC statement said the revelations, “have called into question the stewardship of the US when it comes to Internet Governance.”
Currently organizations based in the US control essential elements of Internet architecture. Based in California, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) manages top-level domain names under contract with the US government, allowing it to supervise Internet traffic.
Icann, which is technically a California non-profit organization, aims to be globally run and is, in effect, run under the multi-stakeholder model proposed by Kroes. Nevertheless, the authority to grant domain names is under a renewable US government contract.
“Our fundamental freedoms and human rights are not negotiable. They must be protected online,” Kroes said.
Nevertheless, Kroes rejected the idea to have a branch of the UN administer the Internet or grant its supervision to the International Telecommunications Union. Both the EU and the US wish to avoid governing models that could lead to censorship.
“The Internet should remain a single, open, free, un-fragmented network of networks, subject to the same laws and norms that apply in other areas of our day-to-day lives,” said Kroes. The EC statement also proposed the implementation of a digital platform for “creating transparency on Internet policies” – the Global Internet Policy Observatory.
In a speech last month, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Lawrence E. Strickling said: “The US government appreciates the thoughtful leadership of the Internet technical community on this important issue. We want to work collectively to make multi-stakeholder governance more inclusive while maintaining the stability of the open and innovative Internet.”