Panel Discussion III – One Internet

The very appropriately multi-stakeholder panel on “One Internet”, moderated by co-founder of Global Voices Online Rebecca MacKinnon, explored the connection between human rights online and the openness and interoperability of the Internet. Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist Vinton Cerf, commonly referred to as one of the “fathers of the Internet”, drew attention to the usefulness of many forums, including NetMundial and FOC, for bringing together many different groups to discuss the very relevant topics of Internet governance. Cerf also provided a short overview of the importance of the activities of ICANN in assuring the uniformity of sending and receiving addresses by drawing an analogy to worldwide postal and telephone systems. Senior Adviser to the President of ICANN Sally Costerton then picked up the thread to confirm that NetMundial was indeed a win for ICANN and a powerful affirmation of the multi-stakeholder model. She also accentuated the importance of continuing to encourage outreach and awareness for everyone and asserted that developing countries need to understand the importance of One Internet for economic growth in those states. While the ITU is often referred to as the antagonist in Internet freedom discussions, the next panelist, ITU’s Head of the Corporate Strategy Division Tomas Lamanauskas refuted this claim saying that not only does the ITU also affirm the multi-stakeholder model, but that the ITU and ICANN can and do have complementary rather than competing roles. Lamanauskas highlighted the low levels and high costs of Internet access around the developing world, especially for women. Joy Liddicoat, Human Rights Specialist at the Association for Progressive Communications, agreed that access is important, but unless the openness of the Internet is preserved, people around the world will get a different and less useful experience than right now because a closed Internet will be fundamentally different in character. Liddicoat also expressed the deep concern of civil society that large-scale filtering, blocking, regulation, violation of net neutrality, disrespect for the right to knowledge and significant differences in power among stakeholders mean that the openness of the Internet is declining rapidly. Finally, the United Kingdom’s Minister for Europe David Lidington reiterated the UK’s commitment to transparency and the restoration of trust, saying in addition that the Internet needs to be discussed not only at specialised meetings like NetMundial and FOC, but that it should rather be mainstreamed into the way we create our strategies and make all of our decisions. Lidington expressed some scepticism about the need for an international governing body or a Magna Carta for the Internet. All in all, the panel concluded that: the questions of surveillance, Internet governance, and human rights online are inextricably linked; there is no catch-all solution to these questions; developed countries need to keep assisting developing countries with best practices in order to preserve the oneness and interoperability of the Internet; and there needs to be more of a power balance between stakeholders as these questions continue to be addressed at the international level.