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Internet governance developments in February

Published on 02 March 2015
Updated on 05 April 2024

Though not as eventful and as dynamic as January, a few major events in February increased the pressure on policy areas like net neutrality, cybersecurity, and the IANA stewardship transition, as February’s IG barometer showed.

A useful tool to track the presence of specific issues in the public policy debate in comparison to the previous month, the barometer also revealed periods of low pressure for online privacy and data protection, updates to the global IG architecture, and jurisdiction issues.

February’s focus on cybersecurity and the IANA transition process

Internet governance developments in FebruaryExplaining these updates during the Geneva Internet Platform’s February Internet governance briefing on Friday, DiploFoundation director and GIP head Dr Jovan Kurbalija said that the major policy events this month included the ICANN 52 meeting in Singapore, the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection attended by President Obama, and yesterday’s US Federal Communications Commission meeting, during which the FCC voted in favour of new net neutrality rules.

At the White House Summit held in Silicon Valley (Stanford University) earlier this month, President Obama asked for tighter collaboration between the corporate sector and government on cybersecurity measures. A few leaders of the Internet industry – the chief executives of Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo! – visibly absent from the conference.

Also speaking at the briefing, which was delivered live from Geneva, Diplo’s cybersecurity expert Mr Vladimir Radunović explained that two other developments had taken place, events which continued to erode the already diminished trust between users and corporate businesses.

The Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab revealed that spying programs had been incorporated into the core levels of software installed on personal computers in several countries. Kaspersky linked the programs to the NSA, with the revelations being confirmed by people close to the Agency.

In another blow to user trust, it was revealed that Lenovo computers were installed with Superfish, a program which opens the doors for security breaches. It is believed that Superfish was installed deliberately by the manufacturers.

Mr Radunović also mentioned the Munich Security Conference in which cybersecurity – although not high on its agenda – was specifically incorporated in the discussion on warfare.

Nigel Hickson, ICANN VP, Intergovernmental Organisations Engagement, who joined the briefing remotely, explained the issues discussed during the recent ICANN 52 meeting in Singapore, with the IANA stewardship transition process being among the top issues.  

The process started in March 2014 following the announcement of the US government’s intent to transition its stewardship of the IANA functions to the global multistakeholder community. Three communities were tasked with submitting proposals to the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group: the Numbering Resources Community and the Protocol Parameters Community, both of whom submitted their proposals in January, and the Naming Community, whose task is more complex and politically sensitive. During ICANN 52, the stakeholders discussed the two models put forth in a draft proposal by the Naming Community: an external model and an internal one.


In parallel, the ICANN Accountability track – a parallel process developed to ensure that ICANN remains accountable in the absence of its historical contractual relationship with the US government, and led by the Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability) – presented its updates during the Singapore meeting, and is now working on taking forward the work in view of the upcoming ICANN 53 meeting Buenos Aires.

Other issues discussed during ICANN 52 were updates on WHOIS, new domains names, and Internet governance including the IGF mandate. With regard to gTLDs, discussions on public interest and community names are taking place.

Developments on net neutrality, privacy, and global IG architecture

Yesterday’s FCC vote marked another step in the fight between the US telecoms authorities and the corporate sector, Mr Radunović explained.

The vote was in favour of a new Open Internet Order which sets rules in favour of net neutrality. It also reclassifies broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications service under Title II.

Traditionally, telecoms have been heavily regulated, unlike broadband. The FCC will now have an impact on how service providers work, as certain rules for telecoms can now also be applied to broadband providers.

A key issue was whether there were one or many Internets, Dr Kurbalija added. The FCC’s vote has confirmed that there is only one Internet, offering the same treatment to all.

The developments in the USA will affect other regions, including the European Union. Brussels is expected to shift to a pro net neutrality stance.

One effect of the FCC’s ruling is that this will impact the liability of intermediaries. The fact that governments are stepping in to protect the public interest could bring about a new trend in that the protection of services is better achieved through regulation.

The major developments in the net neutrality debate were in contrast with the few developments in other areas. For example, it was a relatively quiet month for developments on the global IG architecture, and privacy and data protection, Dr Kurbalija explained. Google is leaning towards an EU-only ‘right to be forgotten’, which its Advisory Council has described as a good compromise. Meanwhile, it has updated its privacy policy following pressure to modify those rules that were perceived as too vague with regard to how users’ data are being used.

March will be a busier time for privacy, as the UN Human Rights Council prepares to meet 2-27 March.

Internet governance developments in FebruaryUpcoming events

In the UN’s Human Rights Council, the right to privacy will be in focus especially following the German-Brazil initiative. It remains to be seen whether rumours of a new UN rapporteur on the right to privacy will materialise.

Quite a few technical meetings are taking place in March. The GSMA Mobile World Congress is a major event on mobile telecoms, and is set to attract over thousands of delegates to Barcelona. Mr Radunović and GIP’s Dr Tereza Horejsova will be among the delegates. Other technical events include the IETF 92 meeting in Texas, and the Middle East DNS Forum in Amman.

UNESCO’s Connecting the Dots event in Paris on 3-4 March will feature zoomed-out perspectives of Internet governance, including ethics and new governance regimes. Dr Kurbalija, who will be participating at the event, said that this will not be just an academic gathering, but will produce outcome documents which may feed into the WSIS process.

The Round Table on Open Innovation in the Proprietary World, co-organised by Diplo as a project partner, will feature developments in Intellectual Property Rights. The event will take place on 19 March in Geneva. Remote participation will be encouraged.

The first meeting of the Inaugural Coordination Council of the NetMundial Initiative will be held on 31 March 2015 in Costa Rica. The Internet Social Forum will host the first preparatory meeting during the World Social Forum (Tunis, 24-28 March 2015).

Dr Kurbalija announced a new development from Diplo’s Creative Lab: the Internet Governance ‘Biorhythm’, which will follow technical, policy and economic aspects of the Internet developments. It will be closely linked to the IG barometer. More details available soon.

For more details and updates on upcoming events, visit the Internet Governance Timeline on the GIP’s homepage.


Recording of the briefing:

YouTube player

Internet governance developments in FebruaryView or download the presentation. You can also view the photo gallery for the event. We invite you to join us next month, online or in Geneva, for another Internet governance briefing; registrations are now open.

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