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Finding a Balanced Approach on Internet Governance

Peter Major, vice-chairman of the Radiocommunication Advisory Group of the International Telecommunication Union and chairman of the Group on Information Systems of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau at the United Nations, is one of the world's leading experts in the field of Internet Governance.

Dr. Major has visited HSE several times over the past year to speak on the importance of the Internet for development, as well as on some of the various changes that have recently take place with respect to international and national Internet Governance. He recently spoke with the HSE news service about some of these developments, particularly with respect to multi-stakeholder cooperation.

— What has changed in Internet Governance since our last discussion in September 2013?

— During this period there were several events influencing Internet Governance. The most important one was the announcement of the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) of the US Department of Commerce about the transition of its procedural role of administering changes to the authoritative root zone file – the database containing the lists of names and addresses of all top-level domains – as well as serving as the historic steward of the DNS. These functions are currently carried out by ICANN under the contract with NTIA. Four principles have been outlined about the transition:

  • Support and enhance the multi-stakeholder model
  • Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS
  • Meet the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services
  • Maintain the openness of the Internet.

NTIA will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution. 

The other important event was the NetMundial in April 2014 in São Palo, Brazil. The meeting produced a non-binding statement in favour of consensus-based decision-making. It reflected a compromise and did not harshly condemn mass surveillance or include the words “net neutrality”, despite initial support for that from Brazil.

Also important was that the ITU hosted WSIS+10 Multstakeholder Preparatory Platform (MPP), which produced a significant outcome document endorsed by the High Level Event in June 2014 in Geneva. It should be noted that the WSIS+10 MPP has been one of the significant steps in the overall review process of the WSIS. The final evaluation will be made by the UN General Assembly at the end of 2015.

— There was a global Internet Governance Forum this fall in Turkey. What was the main focus of discussions there?

— The main focus of the discussions in IGF in Istanbul was on the transition of IANA functions, on best practices, on NetMundial and net neutrality, among others. It is important to note that the final Chair’s Summary of the event (available on the IGF website www.intgovforum.org) has been prepared taking into account the recommendations of the CSTD Working Group on the Improvements to the IGF.

— You have been talking about Internet as a key element of development. What are the development options for those countries where the censorship sets up significant barriers for Internet usage?

— Direct or indirect control of the Internet may reduce possibilities of taking full advantage of the free flow of ideas, scientific research, collaboration and cooperation. It is important to find a balanced approach that reconciles different views on Internet Governance and takes into account both global principles and national concerns.

— You are a devoted researcher of Internet mechanisms and influence. How do you see your own mission?

— I participate in most of the Internet Governance related processes in the UN, ITU, IGF and ICANN. In my activities, I try to promote multi-stakeholder cooperation. In the UN framework, chairing some IG related discussions I want to build consensus in an inclusive and open way. I am pleased to share my experience in presentations and lectures at HSE, the European Summer School on Internet Governance, and in other forums.

— It is great to have your lectures and seminars at HSE on a regular basis. What would you recommend for our students to know and understand the Internet better in general?

— To understand Internet Governance issues better I would recommend that HSE students build on the lectures and seminar and engage in discussions on national and regional Internet Governance forums. This would allow them to follow and actively contribute to the rapidly changing scene of Internet Governance.

Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News Service 

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