Our Oct. 21 hour on reported changes in the global governance of the Internet featured a fascinating segment with Fadi Chehadé,, the President and CEO of ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.) We've included some pullouts from his comments on how the supposed decline of US influence in the organization and direction of the global Internet was all part of a general trend, as well as how recent revelations of the National Security Agency's digital spying efforts in countries like Brazil and France have lead to a decline in public trust in the networks that connect us.
"To be frank, when you have conversations one on one with leaders, the rhetoric goes down and the focus is, 'How do we keep the Internet stable, secure, reliable and open?' To my surprise, there is a very clear understanding that an open Internet is good for everyone. That a free Internet is good for everyone. I think there is though an interest to figure out how can we all have an equal footing. And by all, I mean not just all governments, but all stakeholders in the management of this great resources. And that's a difficult question to answer. Because in the last 15 years, many stakeholders came together to advance the Internet and its governance, but the US by history had the unique role in that activity. But I think we're at the point and we have been going to this for many years — this is nothing new — where setting an equal footing for everyone has become a priority."
Chehadé also spoke on how the United States' changing role with ICANN was always an expected move.
"I think the current role the United States has with ICANN was always envisaged to change. The timing of that was the question, not if, it was jut when. I think now it is clear that we need to talk about changing that role and evolving it to become a more global role where all again, all stakeholders — not just governments — have an equal footing in the governance of the Internet. So the timing has been put into clear focus right now, that is what 's happening."
Washington, D.C. has had a changing and nuanced role in Internet governance. Chehadé explained.
"Washington wants to make sure the Internet remains open, available for all people all users around the world in an open and free way, and to make sure that none of the evolutionary ideas that anyone has, frankly, take away from the security, the reliability of this Internet. Therefore I think Washington will consider at the right time, in the right framework, an evolution of this role in a frankly calm and wise way. And the thing that continues to amaze me — in a good way — is the number of governments and stakeholders I talk to who actually are not, despite their calls over years to give an equal role to everyone, they're not rushing in any way that would jeopardize the core value and the core values of the Internet. Everyone is cautious."
Finally, Chehadé had measured but stern words for the recent allegations of NSA spying and digital data gathering around the world.
"I believe that all governments who use a resource that is so vital and so critical to our lives now and our economies — any government and any power that misuses these resources or uses them for certain activities that interfere with basic rights that people have around the world frankly puncture the public trust in the Internet. And I think that the US activities which have revealed, certain activities are just what has been revealed but there are many many other activities that have not been revealed. Other countries, other governments engage in the same or similar activities, maybe we can argue about the scale. It's a question of a certain approach to this incredibly important resource. The puncturing of that public trust is moving many of the people here in Bali to think about how we cooperate in the management of the Internet. It's moving a lot of people to think, 'Okay, how do we create checks and balances so that we can safeguard the public trust in the Internet?' This morning in my opening speech, I did call on everyone to act as an equal steward in restoring the public trust. The Internet is too valuable for us to lose that public trust which I think has been the engine of incredible — which I'm sure you and your listeners know, whether its been the creativity enabled by the Internet, the human development, the free expression, the unity that it has brought to communities around the world and frankly, I'd even argue the peace that the Internet has brought, because the Internet brings us together across borders."
Is Chehadé right? Is the shift from a US-dominated to a more globally integrated system of Internet governance a good change, or more the result of NSA digital spying revelations? Leave your thoughts below, or let us know on Facebook, Tumblr and @OnPointRadio.
This program aired on October 21, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.