The Global Network Initiative urges the retention of the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance as global policy forums create policy for the future. Several important decisions are to be made around Internet governance in the coming year.

The roles of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Telecom Policy Forum and proposals to the UN General Assembly on the future of Internet governance have not been top of mind for the billions of people around the world that increasingly rely on the internet as a means of providing social connection or an opportunity for political or economic engagement.

But decisions to be made in the next 12 months may impact on the way users around the world connect to the Internet in the coming years. A few examples:

  • proposals to extend the authority of the ITU to address spam, which would bring Internet content regulation into the remit of the ITU
  • proposals to alter the environment for interconnection and investment in infrastructure, which could limit access to content in emerging markets
  • proposals outlined in a letter to the UN General Assembly in September 2011 seeking to create a code of conduct for information security.

The organizations that currently provide for the technical interoperability of the internet and the development of internet policy include many different stakeholders as a part of their decision making or discussion process. This has enabled innovation at a scale and speed that very few would have predicted, ensures no one stakeholder group dominates (be that governments or others) and reflects the international agreement reached back in 2005 at the World Summit on the Information Society.

Of course there are difficulties with the current model that need to be addressed.  But the fundamentals are right.  Some governments are promoting the continued multi-stakeholder model for internet governance. But some of the proposals being tabled at international forums or promoted through the UN either don’t give sufficient weight to the continued involvement of the many stakeholders who have a stake in the way the internet works or actively seek to undermine it to place more control into the hands of governments.

In the coming months GNI calls on the governments of UN member states to retain and respect the multi-stakeholder model and others to actively engage as these critical decisions are made.