Internet Governance after Snowden

The revelations that the National Security Agency has been analyzing data passing through American facilities, and requiring Americans to lie about it, has sent shockwaves through the world of Internet governance. Intelligence organizations spying - imagine that!

The US Department of Commerce controls "the root", the point of control for the insertion or deletion of top level domains (.com, .net, .org etc). The entire structure of Internet governance of domain names and IP address assignment functions derives from a sequence of supply contracts issued by the US Department of Commerce to ICANN and its dependent organizations.

The fact that the structure of Internet governance depends on contracts issued to a California not-for-profit  by a department of the US government seems a haphazard way to go about regulating the most important communications infrastructure of the world.


Or so it now seems. But the flexibility afforded by this scheme allowed the governance of the Internet to be "multi-stakeholder": a term that connotes the equality of parties, states, private sector companies, and public-interest organizations. The alternative was a treaty-based organization, such as the International Telecommunications Union, where only states are signatories, and only states have the right to Thus, Ghana has a vote at the ITU, and Apple does not.

The Internet world is abuzz with talk about how to detach the governance of the Internet from the US Department of Commerce. So far nothing specific has been broached.