Government officials, tech industry representatives, and nongovernmental groups will be meeting in Azerbaijan next week to discuss Internet governance issues and may provide a peek into some of the proposals that could emerge at a highly anticipated telecommunications conference that some fear could result in more regulation of the Internet.
The Internet Governance Forum's annual meeting provides an opportunity for a wide range of stakeholders to discuss policy issues related to Internet management. The forum emerged out of the United Nations' World Summit of the Information Society in 2005, when there was an unsuccessful push by some countries to transfer some of the responsibilities for running the Internet from multi-stakeholder groups like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers (ICANN) to the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union.
"The business community sees it as way for the international community to let off steam," Association for Competitive Technology President Jonathan Zuck said in an interview this week ahead of his trip to Baku, Azerbaijan, for the IGF meeting.
While the IGF is focused on policy discussions and does not issue any formal recommendations, Zuck and others attending this year's forum expect there will be some discussion of the proposals that could emerge at the International Telecommunication Union's World Conference on International Telecommunications in December. Governments from around the world will meet at the ITU conference in Dubai to consider changes to international telecommunications treaties. U.S. government officials and business leaders have voiced concern that some countries may push for changes at the ITU conference that could lead to more regulation of the Internet.
"IGF is run by the United Nations and the ITU is closely related to the U.N.," Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice told Tech Daily Dose on Tuesday. "The ITU uses the IGF meeting to talk about things people do online for which [it believes] the only remedy is to give governments greater power to regulate use of the medium."
ICANN, the California nonprofit that manages the Internet's domain name system, also uses the IGF to reach important stakeholders. ICANN, which was picked in 1998 by the U.S. government to take over management of the domain name system, relies on the trust and support of governments and industry around the world. ICANN has come under scrutiny recently for launching a controversial program in January to allow for the introduction of hundreds of new top-level generic domain names to compete with the .com, .net and the 20 other existing Internet domains.
"It gives ICANN another vehicle to reach a very important global constituency and explain why it's doing what it's doing," said former U.S. Ambassador David Gross, who served as the State Department's coordinator for international communications and information policy from 2001-2009.
ICANNs' new CEO Fadi Chehadé and other ICANN officials will be at the IGF meeting and will help lead discussions related to the domain name system.
"The IGF meeting in Baku will afford us a fantastic opportunity to talk further with the broad Internet community about our global stakeholder engagement initiatives," Chehadé said in a statement this week. "It also allows us a chance to work hand-in-hand with other key organizations in the Internet ecosystem."
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