Mounting Threats to Internet Oversight on the Horizon

by on August 20, 2009 · 4 comments

TLF readers are undoubtedly familiar with the concept of regulatory capture. It’s a form of government failure, when a regulatory agency becomes overly influenced by the special interests of those (often large companies) it oversees.  Over at the NetChoice blog, my colleague Steve DelBianco talks about a different form of capture that’s equally bad–government capture of private sector management of the Internet’s addressing system. He asserts:

Before the US Government abdicates its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) it should take a long, hard look at the mounting efforts by world governments to assume greater power over the Internet’s addressing system. If those efforts meet no further resistance, the once-theoretical threat of “capture” could become a reality.

So what? In place of U.S. oversight, there are those that wish to create an international government bureaucracy to run ICANN:

In place of U.S. Government management, the [European] Commission recommends the creation of a multi-governmental tribunal with authority over ICANN. The European Commission posits that this new bureaucratic structure would not involve itself in “day-to-day” activities, but the distinction between “day-to-day” and other activities is utterly meaningless from a policy standpoint. Also, given the activism of the countries involved in such an effort, it would be ludicrous to expect such an entity to use its newfound power sparingly.

Steve’s post has a lot of background and explains things in detail, but I’ll share his ultimate conclusion:  our Commerce Dept. should be working with ICANN to retain the protective aspects of the JPA while ICANN develops permanent mechanisms to prevent external capture. It better hurry…it has only until the end of September to do something!

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