June 23, 2014, 1:37 PM — What level of control governments should exert over the Internet emerged early in ICANN's meeting this week as a primary sticking point, with the representative from France advocating for more state control and the U.K. arguing for less.
More than 3,300 representatives from around the world have descended on London to discuss what will happen after the U.S. turns over control of the world's central DNS servers to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number).
During the Monday morning keynote, Ed Vaizey, U.K. minister for culture, communications and creative industries, said he had great faith in the Internet community as the U.S. takes a step back from its governance role.
Success in preparing the way for ICANN to take over will occur only through a collaborative bottom-up approach rather than through state-centered regulation, according to Vaizey.
"Some say this can't work -- it's a monumental task that can only be undertaken at the governmental or super national level. But look at how well the ICANN model has worked so far. In less than 20 years, the Internet has revolutionized the way the world works, talks and studies, and this explosive growth has not been managed by governments," Vaizey said.
A more state-controlled "bureaucratic World Wide Web of red tape" is doomed to fail, according to Vaizey.
"The Internet being run not by the people who make it work on a daily basis, but by people like me -- you don't want that," he said.
France, on the other hand, isn't as happy with ICANN's performance of late, and seemed to be proposing more radical changes.
"The problem is it is totally opaque, there is no transparency at all in the process," Axelle Lemaire, the secretary of state for the digital economy, was quoted as saying in the Financial Times on Sunday.
From the floor of the ICANN meeting, she said the role of governments should not be forgotten and suggested that a new general assembly should decide strategy, approve the budget and appoint board members to make it a truly international organization. Some politically sensitive issues should also be separated from more administrative matters, according to Lemaire.
Exactly how the general assembly would work wasn't clear, but Lemaire told the Financial Times that it would include governmental representation on a "one country, one vote" basis. Lemaire's office didn't reply to questions asking for elaboration on that point.