ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Whither Internet Democratisation?

The "NETmundial" conference in Brazil on democratising internet governance was a vacuous exercise.

The internet today is ubiquitous the world over as a mode of communication and diffusion of knowledge, and an arena for commercial business, among other things. Its massive expansion, largely in a free and equitable manner, has much to do with the effort of various communities of people engaged in building a digital commons over and beyond the pioneering efforts of departments of the US government that built the internet in the first place. Issues of governance have inevitably come to the fore, and much was expected from the conference, “NETmundial”, held last month, which sought to build upon prevailing ideas concerning multilateralisation of internet governance.

At present, it is the agencies of the US government that control the nuts and bolts of internet architecture, primarily the domain name system (DNS) and the root zone server which controls the naming and addressing protocols for domains all over the world. The US government has over the previous decade and a half resolved to loosen its hold – through the aegis of US commerce department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) – over the DNS and the root zone server. The work of maintaining the two have been contracted to the not-for-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), headquartered in the US. On 14 March 2014, the US government reiterated its intent to undertake the transition to – what it has called – a “multi-stakeholder model” of internet governance.

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