The United States is no longer the sine qua non for Internet governance. Nonparticipation within Internet governance forums by the United States will not keep other countries with objectives counter to those of the United State from shaping the future of the Internet. The United States gains nothing from being perceived as determined to use computer network attacks without limit.
The global Internet governance fight that is coming to a head has been brewing for six years, when the last major discussion over how to manage the Internet took place through the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). Despite serious concerted efforts, the reality is that the Internet has grown in importance faster than multi-stakeholders have been able to develop robust and secure decision-making processes.
The U.S. government, for instance, has set up the operation of domain names, implemented the technical aspects of the system, and has authorized a registration process for them. However, the U.S. government is not alone in the regulation of domain names; governments around the world are involved in their operation and registration. In addition to its technical operation, government regulates the domain name system via trademark law.
"Narrow vs. broad" Internet Governance has been one of the main issues so far, reflecting the different approaches and interests in the Internet Governance process. The "narrow" approach focuses on the Internet infrastructure (Domain Name System, IP numbers, and root servers). According to the "broad" approach, Internet Governance negotiations should go beyond infrastructural issues and address other legal, economic, developmental, and socio-cultural issues.
In the early years of Internet development, the prevailing view was that government should stay out of Internet governance; market forces and self-regulation would suffice to create order and enforce standards of behavior. But this view has proven inadequate as the Internet has become mainstream. A reliance on markets and self-policing has failed to address adequately the important interests of Internet users such as privacy protection, security, and access to diverse content.
Various aspects of its global governance are, in more or less formalized ways, in the hands of different organizations which generally facilitate some form of participation in the decision-making processes by interested stakeholder organizations and members of the general public. Other aspects, including in particular the task of establishing an adequate legal framework, are in the hands of governments, while the corresponding public policy processes should also build on the results of debates in inclusive international fora such as the International Governance Forum (IGF).
It is therefore misleading to use the term ‘Internet Governance’ when ‘The Internet’ is clearly not a single entity to govern. It is perhaps more useful and accurate to refer to ‘Internet Coordination’, as experience has shown that various forms of close coordination are essential to ensure operational stability and preserve architectural integrity. Specifically, close coordination is essential to successfully develop and deploy protocols and carefully allocate the resources that these protocols require to be useful.
Some developing nations, such as India, would like to see more responsibilities given to international bodies such as the U.N.’s ITU, and nations such as China and Russia, concerned with the Internet’s effect on domestic politics, advocate a greater degree of control over what have traditionally been open pipes. The United States, which now has the lead in administering the Internet through its agreement with the independent Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has favored an open, cooperative approach.
Internet governance is no longer the special concern of the information and communications technology sector (ICT). A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute finds that 75 percent of the economic growth attributable to the Internet comes from companies not directly associated with ICT. Internet governance has entered the mainstream of management issues that must be understood and mastered for an organization to effectively pursue its goals.
“Internet governance” used to just mean Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers-related issues; today, we include under that rubric almost any policy issue related to the Internet, including standardization and resource allocation. The Internet can be and is being used to provide mail, voice telephone service, newspapers, broadcast television, music, libraries, and government services. This unification of the platform for all modes of communication and information – known as “digital convergence” – makes all the policy conflicts and issues that were spread out over old media part of Internet politics today.