Internet Governance is a broad term and has many definitions depending on the context. In general, Internet governance is the development of norms and principles relating to how the Internet functions by a group of stakeholders including governments, organizations, and commissions and the regulation and administration of those principles by the parties involved. Aside from structural issues, Internet Governance can include conversations around access, policy and content.
According to the Report of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) (June 2005 P.4), Internet Governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector, and civil society in their respective roles of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet. Internet Governance was an idea convoked by the UN Secretary General in the backdrop of WSIS 2003 (Geneva) and WSIS 2005 (Tunisia).
The issues in internet governance and digital policy fall into seven categories: infrastructure, cybersecurity, human rights, legal and regulatory, economic, development, and sociocultural. Diplo executive director Jovan Kurbalija developed this taxonomy in 1997 and expanded on it in An Introduction to Internet Governance.
- Infrastructure includes the telecommunications that facilitate digital communication, such as under-sea fiber optic cables and powerlines; technical issues and digital standards; and critical internet resources, such as internet protocol numbers, the DNS, and the root zone.
- Cybersecurity refers to efforts at defending cyberspace from state and non-state actors' malicious uses, acts that threaten peace and security, undercut trust in the digital economy and services, or stall the digital transformation of societies and economies. Subtopics include: child safety online, attacks on critical infrastructure, cyberwarfare, cybercrime, encryption, network security, and violent extremism.
Some of the organizations that are involved in the topic of Internet governance include:
- Internet Society
- Internet Governance Forum
- Registries and Registrars
- Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network
- Internet Commerce Association
- World Wide Web Consortium
ICANN considers itself part of the Internet governance ecosystem, although the organization is wary of wading into areas that are beyond the organization's mission. In 2013/2014 the topic of Internet Governance was widely discussed within the ICANN community, and in November 2013 ICANN set up a Strategy Panel on ICANN's Role in the Internet Governance Ecosystem, along with a few other strategy panels. The panel was led by Vint Cerf and was tasked with reviewing ICANN's role in the Internet governance ecosystem and recommending a roadmap for future involvement in the ecosystem.
IANA Functions Stewardship Transition
The IANA Functions Stewardship Transition was a process and community discussion regarding the transition of IANA functions stewardship from its historical contract with the United States government's NTIA to the global Internet community. The process and discussion were spearheaded by ICANN and its various stakeholder groups and were catalyzed by an announcement in March 2014 by NTIA that they would be relinquishing the stewardship to the Internet community. The transition process was successful and took place on October 1, 2016.
In March 2014 NTIA released a statement that they are intent on transitioning their part of the IANA functions away from NTIA and to the global stakeholder community. The first step in this process is for ICANN to convene stakeholders and create a proposal for how the IANA functions will remain secure and unwavering. The press release outlined a number of principles that the ICANN-community drafted proposal must meet:
- Must Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
- Must Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
- Must meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and,
- Must Maintain the openness of the Internet.
The current NTIA contract with ICANN expires on 30 September 2014, and members of the ICANN community took that date as a deadline for drafting and agreeing on a proposal.
ICANN subsequently published its own press release that applauded NTIA's announcement and called it a recognition of the U.S. government to ICANN's "maturation in becoming an effective multistakeholder organization".
Global media outlets picked up on the NTIA press release, with many United States media reporting that the United States Government was "giving up control of the Internet".
ICANN President Fadi Chehade responds to the US government's decision to relinquish control of the key stewardship organization.
- Internet governance and digital policy, Diplomacy.edu
- Infrastructure, Dig.Watch
- Cybersecurity, Dig.Watch
- Governance Ecosystem Strategy Panel, ICANN.org Retrieved 22 May 2014
- Press Release: NTIA Announces Intent to Transition Key Internet Domain Name Functions NTIA.doc.gov; Retrieved 09 July 2014
- Press Release March 14, 2014