An Internet governance model that includes businesses and civil-society groups in the decision-making process remains the best approach, despite a push from some countries for a more government-centric model, officials with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) said.
ICANN will talk about the "immense success" of the current multistakeholder model in an April Internet governance conference in Brazil, ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehadé said during a press conference at an ICANN meeting in Buenos Aires.
Brazil's leaders have been pushing for the United Nations to take over some Internet governance functions from ICANN, but the U.N. has an "intergovernmental approach" to issues that doesn't include as much input from nongovernmental organizations, Chehadé said Wednesday.
ICANN this week announced a new panel that will address concerns about Internet governance. People in government, civil society, the private sector, the technical community and international organizations will be part of the panel, ICANN said.
Several countries have criticized ICANN's relationship with the U.S. government, and one reporter asked Chehadé if revelations of widespread surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency are driving recent calls by Brazil and other countries for a new Internet governance model. The government of Brazil has been an outspoken critic of NSA surveillance.
"I do not read minds yet," Chehadé said. He said he couldn't project "exactly what is driving" the Brazilian plans for the April governance conference.
A debate over Internet governance has been happening for years, he noted. "This is nothing new," Chehadé added. "Let us not divorce the Brazil meeting from the reality of a very long history" of Internet governance debates.
The revelations this year of NSA surveillance by former contractor Edward Snowden have stirred up Internet governance issues, Chehadé said. "That's, frankly, almost irrelevant at this point," he said. "What is more important is to focus ... on a future that allows all people -- governments, businesses, civil society, technical organizations -- to feel that they together have an equal footing in the governance of the Internet. That's the future."
ICANN will attend the Brazil meeting and encourages discussions about ways to improve Internet governance, Chehadé said. He expects no "binding resolutions" from the Brazil conference, but instead, a broad discussion about Internet governance issues.
Asked why Internet governance has dominated ICANN's Argentina meeting, Chehadé said the stakes are high.
"There is a global realization that the Internet is at the center of the world economy," he said. "It is also a driver of social life, a driver of political life, a driver of value to many people. The Internet is no longer just a communication means. It's the nervous system of the world."
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is [email protected]