2013, a historic year
By Charles Miller
Regular readers of this column may recognize that at the end of every year I often write on the subject of little-noticed changes that have come about on the internet and try to look at what they could mean for the future. This year what happened on October 7, 2013 could prove to all of us that we who live through historical events often do not notice their importance at the time they happen.
The leaders of organizations responsible for global coordination of the internet technical infrastructure met in Montevideo, Uruguay and on October 7th these core governing bodies of the internet – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Architecture Board, the World Wide Web Consortium, the Internet Society, and all five of the regional Internet address registries – released the “Montevideo Statement on the Future of Internet Cooperation.”
Part of this statement declares that these organizations collectively call “for accelerating the globalization of ICANN and IANA functions, towards an environment in which all stakeholders, including all governments, participate on an equal footing.” With this statement, and with striking unanimity, these organizations that actually develop internet standards and administer allocation of resources initiated a break with United States government control of the internet.
The United States Department of Defense, ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) invented “The Internet” and it has always been under the control of the US government, currently the Commerce Department. The governance of the internet has been a benevolent dictatorship in the hands of the US with little ground given to the Chinese who tightly censor their citizen’s access or the Iranians who suggest Islamic law should govern. The United Nations has wanted for years to wrest unilateral control away from the US and member states such as Russia, Brazil, India, Venezuela, and others are eager to assert that their vote should be equal to the US The US government has simply turned away any suggestions that governance of the internet would be better in any other hands.
In earlier year-end columns I have written on the subject of the friction that exists between the various nations that want to exercise control over the internet. My fear along with other technicians is that the United States would someday surrender control of the internet to the United Nations where it would come under the thumb of some governing committee comprised of leading nations of modern technology such as Albania, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania or Yemen.
The countries making all the noise have zero leverage over US government policies or the private companies that own the internet telecommunications infrastructure. The internet is designed so that everything is voluntary, so these countries could disconnect any time; but they are not going to do that. Instead, they grouse about their lack of control over an internet they did not build and did not pay for.
It is obvious to many that a lot of what has happened lately with regard to internet governance is blowback from the recent revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is clear from the Montevideo Statement that the organizations responsible for making the internet work are looking to a future free of oversight by the US government. It was natural for me to envisage how control of the internet might someday pass from the US government over to some other more diverse government body. Something I personally never imagined is for the various technical committees and organizations to simply declare independence from any government’s oversight. We may look back on 2013 as an historic year.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.