ICANN should become an independent body, says Reding

18 Jun 2009

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) needs to become a fully independent organisation, the EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, said today.

The bilateral Joint Project Agreement between ICANN and the US Government will expire in September 2009, and the Commission wants continued private sector leadership, but operating within clear guidelines defined through an international agreement.

One example is if ICANN could oversee the introduction of customised domain names (which will allow a website to replace ‘.com’ with ‘.anything’); it should set clear guidelines and operate openly.

The EU also believes that future internet governance arrangements should comply with key principles, in particular, the respect for human rights and freedom of expression, as well as the need to preserve stability and security of the internet.

“The ICANN is approaching a historic point in its development,” Reding (pictured) explained.

“Will it become a fully independent organisation, accountable to the global internet community? Europeans would expect so, and this is what we will push for. I call on the US to work together with the European Union to achieve this,” Reding said.

In its communication ‘Internet governance: the next steps’ released today, the EU Commission made proposals for the governance of the internet to be more open, transparent and inclusive. A key objective is that of accountability – both internal (the decision-making bodies and general organisation of ICANN), and external involving all countries of the world).

Those affected by decisions of governance bodies should have the possibility to lodge an appeal with an independent tribunal.

The Commission is also proposing that the network should be managed by private bodies within principles agreed upon by public authorities, but without government interference in day-to-day operations.

The US Government is the only body to have had formal oversight of ICANN’s policies and activities since its inception in 1998. As the Joint Project Agreement is ending now, the Commission believes that ICANN should become universally accountable, not just to one government but to the global internet community.

This is especially relevant, given that the next billion internet users will mostly come from the developing world.

The Commission also said today that the EU should initiate discussions with international partners on these issues, in particular on how to enhance the internet’s resilience against accidents or deliberate attack.

By John Kennedy