The IANA elephant in the room

A perspective on recent Internet governance events.

It had been a long, long time since the new gTLDs did not capture all the attention at an Icann meeting. But last week, in Buenos Aires, it was not all about gTLDs. Internet governance was back. With a bang !
 
Culminating in a last minute, 7am, standing room only, session, no less than 10 sessions and meetings addressed the issue across the week. This was the consequence of a campaign launched in recent weeks by Icann's CEO, Fadi Chehade, which included the Montevideo statement , a meeting with the President of Brazil, Dilma Roussef, and many many miles around the world. 
 

What came out of all of these discussions in Buenos Aires ? 

 
Very little, unfortunately. While very few challenged the call to action (see Maria Farell's blog "something has changed" ), discussions focused on process, mailing lists and legitimacy instead of substance. No "Buenos Aires statement" ; no "petite phrase" in the media ; and of course no consensus. 
 
And the elephant in the room, despite being called out by Fadi Chehade during the opening session, remains. The oversight role of the US Government was mentioned several times, but sessions never came to debate about alternative solutions. 
 

A missed opportunity. 

 
The Montevideo statement had done a pretty good job at framing the issue, explaining why action and change was needed. It even pointed out the need to review the US Government's role with regards to the core IANA functions. 
 
But Icann's key leaders, all of them veterans of the Internet governance, framed the debate in Buenos Aires in such a way that it never came to identify, let alone discuss, any options. Was that for fear of Washington pushback, as may be suggested by Steve DelBianco's, a US lobbyist for the Internet industry,  blog against the idea
 
So the meeting focused on an initiative, 1net.org, which is barely more than a web site and a mailing list. Its "setting the scene" document is the closest to a vision you will find. However the stated purpose remains about catalysing a movement. This is kind of a circular definition that it wil create a movement which is about catalysing a movement.
 
A couple of weeks ago, the IETF meeting in Vancouver was highly successful, in its own context, in framing the issue the Internet is facing (massive, pervasive, cheap surveillance), and elaborating a vision (hugely increasing the cost of surveillance). Communication around this vision was also very effective : "we will strengthen the Internet" was the message. This now puts this particular change in a good position (although many challenges remain). 
 
Icann and its community missed an opportunity in Buenos Aires to launch the debate about the future of IANA oversight. It will most certainly take place elsewhere. Anyone wanting to be part of this should, as a starting point, join the I-coordination mailing list. Hopefully the substantial discussions will start soon... 
 
 
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