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WCIT ends, the Internet goes on

When we wrote about Gandi lobbying the US Congress for better laws to safeguard the Internet, we anticipated that some countries would attempt to assert control over the free flow of information for their own purposes. Well, it's happening, and the debate is complex, with billions of dollars at stake. The governance model that is emerging, though, is "multistakeholder", where lots of interested parties have to cooperate to get anything done. This model is what has allowed the Internet to grow up till now, and governments and standards bodies are struggling to fit this concept into their world views.

The past couple of months have seen Syria slice the connection to the Internet for the whole country, officials in Egypt banning some content as obscene, and most recently, the International Telecommunications Union attempt to gain power as a regulatory agency over the Internet at the WCIT.

All of these attempts to centralize control and police the global communications network underscore of the importance of the Internet as a social force. As governments worry that their populations can access information without restriction, and agencies like the ITU come to grips with the fact that technology has outstripped their abilities to adapt their regulatory frameworks out of the telephone age, the Internet itself has defied (in most cases) these attempts at regulation, and grown, using the multistakeholder model, thanks to the efforts and committed advocacy of many disparate organizations.

The Internet Infrastructure Coalition, of which Gandi is a founding member, actively disagrees with the ITU approach. In the last hours of the WCIT a new treaty was put up for vote that gives the ITU a greater role in governing the Internet, and some 70 countries signed up. The ITU declared victory and moved on, but the fact remains that without consensus there will not be a change in the governance of the internet. That's a good thing, since the multistakeholder system is working, and allows the contribution of many parties. The ITU has the opportunity to prove it's worth in that model as does the i2Coalition, the EFF, and every other body of officials, technologists, and members of civil society that wants to advocate for Internet development along a given path.

Gandi looks forward to the next opportunity to contribute to the development of an Internet that is accessible to everyone, and where information from everyone to everyone flows freely. We all have a role to play.