Remarks by Assistant Secretary Strickling at 11th Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Forum

September 13, 2013

Remarks by Lawrence E. Strickling
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information
11th Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Forum
Ministerial Round Table
Istanbul, Turkey
September 5, 2013

 

I am pleased to be here and I want to thank His Excellency Minister Binali Yildirim and the organizers of this forum for the invitation to speak at this important event.

I also want to congratulate the Minister for a decision made last year by ICANN, the international organization that coordinates the Domain Name System for the Internet, to locate one of its first regional hubs here in Istanbul.  This decision reflects the importance of Turkey as a global center of communications and the Minister deserves much credit for his work in getting ICANN to recognize that fact and choose Istanbul for its hub.

But the decision was also important in that it reflects the growing globalization of the Internet and the need to engage stakeholders from around the world in Internet decision-making and governance.  ICANN operates as a multistakeholder organization.  Many of you know what that means, but for those of you for whom this is a new concept, let me take a minute to explain it.  The multistakeholder model is based on the values of inclusion and participation.  In a multistakeholder organization, everyone may participate.  It does not matter if you come from industry, government, civil society or a university.  It does not matter what country you come from.  In a multistakeholder organization, not only can everyone participate, everyone can be a decision-maker.  Multistakeholder organizations operate on the basis of consensus and everyone can be part of building that consensus.

Why do we prefer a multistakeholder model of Internet governance?  Wouldn’t it be easier just to let governments or some other group decide these questions?  The answer comes from history.

The Internet we enjoy today – this marvelous engine of economic growth and innovation – did not develop by happenstance.  It emerged as a result of the hard work of multistakeholder organizations such as the Internet Society, the Internet Engineering Task Force, and the World Wide Web Consortium.  These organizations have played a major role in designing and operating the Internet we know today.

These multistakeholder processes have succeeded because by their very nature of openness and inclusiveness, they are most capable of attacking issue with the speed and flexibility required in this rapidly changing environment.  By engaging all interested parties, the open multistakeholder process encourages much broader and more creative involvement in problem solving.  These attributes of speed, flexibility and decentralized problem solving stand in stark contrast to a more traditional, top-down regulatory model characterized by rigid processes, inflexibility in finding solutions and in so many cases, impasse.

Here in Turkey, there is an Internet Improvement Board that consists of non-governmental organizations, academicians, private industry representatives and public officials that operates as a multistakeholder organization.  Minister Yildirim, in describing this Board to me, told me that “the more different and diverse opinions expressed in the processes lead to more objective, more inclusive Internet policymaking.”

Today, countries in both the developed and developing world face many challenges as the Internet continues to grow.  The world’s Internet population doubled between 2007 and 2013 and is now estimated at over two billion people.  The next two billion people will come online primarily from Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.  The Internet will grow increasingly diverse geographically, politically, culturally and linguistically.  Countries want the benefits of the Internet to grow their economies and create jobs and wealth for their citizens.  With the increasing globalization of the Internet, countries are now facing issues such as how to maintain sustainable investment in their infrastructures. They are legitimately concerned about online problems of spam, child pornography and the like.

In the United States, we believe that these issues are best solved by multistakeholder processes, but we recognize that for some of these problems there may exist today a multistakeholder organization to consider them.  Thus, we need to better understand the needs and challenges countries around the world have with respect to the Internet.  We need to brainstorm with them and help them build their capacity to deal with these issues.  We need to strengthen existing opportunities and perhaps develop new ones for these countries and their stakeholders to participate in multistakeholder processes to solve these problems.

Our arguments in support of the multistakeholder model are powerful and the results from history are well documented.  But we must apply ourselves to these tasks as the United States is committed to do.  If we do so, the expanded inclusion and participation of all stakeholders in Internet governance will ensure economic growth and innovation and help realize the global ideal of an Internet to serve all people everywhere.  Thank you.