Working with Our Global Partners to Advance an Open Internet

June 20, 2014 by Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling

Three years ago this month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) endorsed a set of principles that encouraged its members to implement policies that call for a common approach to Internet policymaking that center on ensuring the openness of the Internet. The Internet Policymaking Principles (IPPs) include many of the same principles the United States has long advocated in its approach to Internet policymaking, standards and governance including calls to ensure the openness of the Internet, protect and promote the free flow of information on the Internet, and use of the multistakeholder approach to tackle Internet policy challenges.

In celebration of the three-year anniversary of the IPPs, today I met in Paris with a number of foreign government representatives and other stakeholders to discuss ways we can continue to advance the goals outlined in the OECD’s IPPs and the joint challenges we face. These principles, which were inspired by Internet principles adopted by Brazil, were developed in 2011 as OECD members sought ways to spur economic growth as well as respond to threats to online freedom worldwide and advance a more inclusive approach to Internet policy development.

The Internet has been an engine for global economic growth, innovation and societal change for more than two decades. It has torn down walls between countries in an unprecedented way and is an important tool for the free exchange of ideas.

Its success can largely be attributed to the fact that no one party – government, company, or intergovernmental organization – controls the Internet. Rather, the global multistakeholder community – which includes Internet technical experts, businesses, governments and civil society groups – has worked together to resolve Internet technical and policy issues.  Under this approach, all stakeholders can contribute and participate. Each participant is an equal partner in the decision making, and no one party can impose its will or stifle the voices of others.

The United States has long believed that this multistakeholder approach to Internet policymaking is the best way to preserve the openness of the Internet and free flow of information. The OECD principles recognize this and endorse this approach. The principles correctly note the benefits of the multistakeholder approach to Internet policy making, saying “Due to the rapidly changing technological, economic and social environment within which new policy challenges emerge, multistakeholder processes have been shown to provide the flexibility and global scalability required to address Internet policy challenges.”

The United States is taking steps to further strengthen the global multistakeholder model for Internet governance. Sixteen years ago, the U.S. Government embraced this model, and set us on a course for full privatization of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS).  Our recent announcement to transition the last remaining stewardship functions to the global multistakeholder community is the final step on this path we outlined. It’s the right course for preserving a vibrant and open Internet, which is why major Internet stakeholders are supporting this move, including companies such as Cisco, Google and Verizon, and civil society groups such as the Center for Democracy and Technology, Freedom House and Public Knowledge.

Not long after our transition announcement, the influence of the IPPs and the success of the multistakeholder model were on full display at the NETmundial Internet governance conference in Brazil. Given the historical link between the IPPs and Brazil’s own Internet principles, it came as no surprise that the statement adopted by NETmundial's participants reinforced many of the OECD principles, thereby further strengthening the vision of the inclusive and open Internet. It’s critically important that we build on the momentum created by NETmundial. 

We hope to do just that Monday in London at a meeting hosted by Britain’s Communications Minister Edward Vaizey where we will confer with high-level government representatives from around the world to discuss Internet governance issues more broadly. This high-level gathering will take place as part of the 50th meeting in London of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which has been tasked with convening stakeholders to help develop a successful transition plan of the U.S. stewardship of the DNS.