John Oliver told us that "If you want
to do something evil, put it inside something that sounds
incredibly boring," and there's no domain in which that is more true than the world of Internet governance.
Julia "Law Comics" Powles attended last week's ICANN meeting in London, an event that attracted less media attention than the launch of mobile app "Yo," but which was the setting for discussions that will shape the future that we and our children and grandchildren will inhabit. Powles has seen the writing on the wall, and it's grim:
If this was just about money, it might not matter. But it points to a deeper problem. Icann has made itself the central manager of the furniture of the internet – from the IP addresses of each connected device to the root servers that tune to Icann's single root zone and domain name system.
These are some of the most powerful strategic assets on the planet. They are intrinsic to the internet experience that we all value, but also to the fears – surveillance, incumbency, inequality – that we harbour. And right now these assets (themselves a distracting mirage from greater power held by the NSA, Google, and others) are being bartered in a disturbingly one-directional manner.
Today, the ultimate backstop control over key global internet resources rests with the US government. Actions are afoot to transfer them to the so-called global community (while keeping Icann as a private US company, subject only to US law). But the US government has expressly removed from the table a seemingly obvious alternative steward: the United Nations, despite its imperfections. That leaves Icann, with all its hopeless conflicts, as the only option in a vacant lot.
The byzantine, meandering discussion on the future of the internet [Julia Powles/The Guardian]