Remarks of Assistant Secretary Strickling at the United States Internet Governance Forum
– As Prepared for Delivery –
Thank you, Marilyn, for the kind words of introduction and for all your hard work in organizing today’s event. Thank you, Ambassador Kummer, for your remarks and your achievements as executive coordinator of the Internet Governance Forum. It is with great pleasure that I join you today at the inaugural meeting of the United States Internet Governance Forum (IGF). I know that many of you have been involved in discussions related to Internet governance, both at the national and international level, for many years. I look forward in my new role as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator of NTIA to be an active part of those discussions going forward.
Today, I would like to take the opportunity first, to speak briefly about the views of the Obama Administration on the IGF and then to provide some comments on Wednesday’s announcement regarding the Affirmation of Commitments related to the technical coordination of the Internet’s domain name and addressing system (DNS).
Importance of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)
As you recall, the establishment of the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was one of the key outputs of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). World leaders at this historic conference asked the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General to convene a new multi-stakeholder policy dialogue to discuss issues related to key elements of Internet governance. The goal of this process was to foster sustainability, robustness, security, stability and further development of the Internet. And consistent with the principles that have been instrumental to the Internet’s success, this policy dialogue was to be convened in an open and inclusive manner.
It is the view of the United States government that the IGF structure has proven itself to be a valuable format for information sharing and international dialogue on topics critical to global economic, social and political development. The flexible structures used at the IGF – including open forums and workshops – have evolved into dynamic mechanisms that effectively facilitate the exchange of information and best practices among and between all stakeholders. Consequently, the Obama Administration supports the continuation of the global IGF past its initial five-year mandate. We believe that the multi-stakeholder processes that have underpinned the IGF continue to make it a globally unique environment for a constructive and open exchange of ideas without the limitations imposed by the pressures of negotiation. I am personally pleased to see that this structure is being replicated around the world at national and regional levels, including here in the United States. It is my hope and expectation that today’s event will be the first of many U.S. IGF’s which will help to shape domestic priorities in the Internet governance arena as well as bring domestic stakeholders together in a manner that has not happened before.
The Internet Domain Name and Addressing System (DNS)
Now let me turn to this week’s announcement regarding the Internet DNS. Keeping in mind that Internet governance is a very broad topic which includes many, many important areas such as access, diversity, freedom of expression, and critical Internet resources, among others, I am cognizant of the importance that DNS issues have historically played in global Internet governance discussions. With that in mind, I am pleased that I had the great honor on Wednesday to sign on behalf of the U.S. Government a historic document called the Affirmation of Commitments that establishes a long-lasting framework for the technical coordination of the DNS.
The response from the global Internet community has been very welcome. Senators Rockefeller and Snowe and Congressmen Waxman and Boucher each issued a statement praising the agreement. We have also been gratified by the response of foreign nations to the Affirmation. American businesses have also been strong in their support of the new framework. This agreement would not have been possible without the hard work and creativity of two members of the NTIA staff, Fiona Alexander and Larry Atlas, and we should all recognize them now for their service and commitment to conclude this agreement which serves the interests of not just the United States but the global Internet community.
The signing of the Affirmation of Commitments completes the transition of the technical management of the DNS to a multi-stakeholder, private sector led model. It ensures accountability and transparency in the decision making of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, with the goal of protecting the interests of global Internet users. It also establishes mechanism to address the security, stability and resiliency of the Internet DNS as well as promote competition, consumer trust, and consumer choice.
One of our primary goals in our discussions with ICANN was to ensure that the new agreement instituted provisions not only for accountability and transparency, but also to require that decisions be made in the public interest. Accountability and transparency (as well as the review structure set up in the Affirmation) are but means to an end. The end is reaching high quality decisions that serve the public and have the confidence of the global Internet community. The end is decisions that ensure that the Internet continues to be a transformative technology; a technology that empowers people around the globe and enables the free and unfettered flow of information and commerce.
I am also very pleased that the Affirmation contains the U.S. Government’s very strong endorsement of the rapid introduction of internationalized country code top level domain names (ccTLDs). The full promise of the Internet will not be realized until Internet users around the globe are able to use the Internet in their local language and character sets. I call on ICANN to move rapidly to introduce internationalized country code top level domains while first addressing any related security and stability concerns.
In conclusion, let me again take the opportunity to reiterate the U.S. government’s support of the important role that the IGF plays worldwide. The reality of the IGF - an open and inclusive dialogue among all stakeholders of the Internet community discussing critical issues concerning the future of the Internet - is something we should all be proud of and committed to support. The Obama Administration looks forward to the next month’s meeting of the IGF in Egypt and commends all of you for coming together for today’s inaugural meeting of the U.S. IGF. Thank you very much.