Building Consensus in Support of a Global, Inclusive, Free, and Open Internet

May 10, 2013
Network Cables Are Connected to a Server

Next week, the United States will join the Member States of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) at the fifth World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF) in Geneva.  The U.S. comes to Geneva expecting a consensus outcome to the discussions there but also to renew our commitment to understanding the needs and challenges some countries have with respect to the Internet.

Many regions of the world feel that the Internet revolution is leaving them behind, and in some cases, feel left out of existing Internet governance structures.  The WTPF and the non-binding opinions it will adopt can help advance practical, informed solutions to these issues.  The U.S. delegation comes to engage in constructive dialogue on Internet-related public policy issues such as Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), Internet Protocol numbering resources, the expansion of broadband, and, perhaps most importantly, the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance.

There are many different perspectives among fellow Member States regarding existing multistakeholder institutions such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the regional Internet registries (RIRs), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Society (ISOC) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).  The U.S. has made it a priority to work with colleagues so that these institutions are more welcoming to all governments and to provide them, as one among all stakeholders, a meaningful role in decision-making processes.

It is precisely the ability of these organizations to adapt to the needs of stakeholders that makes them so well positioned to carry out their governance responsibilities.  The value and utility of the multistakeholder process arises from the engagement of all interested parties -- including industry, civil society, technical and academic experts, and governments on an equal footing.  The participation of all these parties encourages broad and creative problem solving rooted in maximizing the effectiveness, efficiency, and utility of the global Internet.  The consensus opinions that the Informal Experts Group (IEG) produced, which was open to all stakeholders, are proof that representatives from civil society to industry to government can come together through good faith negotiation to reach goals that we all share.

This is the ITU's first major gathering since last December's World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT).  For those of you who follow these issues, you know we were unable to reach consensus on revised regulations that could have advanced the global development of telecommunication services.  The WCIT highlighted the difficulties of managing Internet public policy issues in an environment of tense, politically charged treaty negotiations.  Eighty-nine Member States elected to sign the final acts, while fifty-five did not.  Nobody "won"; and while governments argued, citizens across the world clamored for the growth and innovation that the Internet has to offer.

Despite the events of last December, we believe that the similarities among governments with respect to the Internet outweigh our differences.  We all want the Internet to be accessible and to enable improvements to health, education, prosperity, and freedom on a worldwide basis.

The WTPF is an opportunity for us to come together in the spirit of cooperation, healthy exchange, and shared interests for the good of the global Internet and the potential it has to further innovation, entrepreneurship, development, and public discourse.

About the Authors: Lawrence E. Strickling serves as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Daniel Sepulveda serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator, Communications and Information Policy, at the U.S. Department of State.



Lacey S.
May 22, 2013

I hope a consensus occurs from the discussions at Geneva. Our commitment to understanding the internet challenges of developing countries is important as there are huge benefits to be reaped from making the internet accessible on a global scale.


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