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Internet Governance 14 May 2013

Remarks to the ITU World Telecommunication Policy Forum, 2013

Mr. Chairman, Secretary-General, ITU elected officials, Excellencies, distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentleman, it is a pleasure for the Internet Society to participate in the 2013 World Telecommunication / ICT Policy Forum.  The Internet Society is a global, nonprofit organization fully dedicated to the belief that the Internet is for everyone.   We are happy to be here in Geneva, which is home both to the International Telecommunication Union and to one of two of the Internet Society’s global offices.

This week, here at the ITU World Telecommunication Policy Forum we will all consider some of the most important issues facing the future of the Internet – how to expand access to the Internet, how to deploy critical new technologies like IPv6, and, centrally important to all of us, how to ensure that all processes addressing Internet issues are inclusive of all stakeholders. 

The challenges are great.  While more than 2.5 billion people have access to the Internet today, two-thirds of the world has yet to come online.   The pace of technological innovation is fast and the results often so profound that there are understandable concerns.  In the midst of all of this, policymakers naturally wonder what their role is in the broader Internet ecosystem and how to make good public policy in the face of such rapid change.

There are many important and complex questions that demand the collective energy and expertise from all stakeholders to fully address. 

And, there is much we can do together.  Those who favor the existing model of multi-stakeholder development should redouble their efforts to understand the underlying concerns of governments. These governments are concerned about inter-alia security, privacy and consumer protection.  Governments have a stake in these areas, and they need to be part of the Multi-stakeholder discussions.

At the same time, policy-makers and governments need to keep an open mind about the approach that so many advocate with respect to Internet development. It’s true that this approach puts many key Internet-related decisions in the hands of businesses, computer scientists, technical organizations and even end users, with a different role for governments than perhaps they are used to.  But the process does not reflect a lack of governance. On the contrary, it is a model of governance that has served the Internet and individuals across the world extraordinarily well, leading to innovations and infrastructure development that may not have come about at all with a top-down model, and certainly wouldn’t have come as quickly.

In the Internet Society’s contribution to the WTPF, we highlight the Internet model of multistakeholder engagement as the best way to ensure the stability, security, and growth of the Open Internet.  It is important to emphasize that we don’t advocate for the multistakeholder model as an end in and of itself.  Instead, we believe that an approach that fully includes all stakeholders is most likely to make progress toward solving the very complex problems facing us.   In fact, we can point to many examples from around the world where stakeholders have come together cooperatively to develop solutions or to create economic opportunities for many.  Let’s learn from these successes; they can clearly be applied to a range of international Internet public policy questions.

The Secretary General’s Report and the draft WTPF Opinions provide important perspectives for the Forum to consider over the coming days, and we will offer specific contributions on the individual Opinions in the Working Groups over the coming days. In closing. we look forward to continuing the dialogue started many years ago, …and as the Secretary General said continue to build the bridges so that Access really is everyone’s future.

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