At a Center for Technology Innovation forum on January 11, government and technology industry experts advocated for a voluntary, multi-stakeholder process as a way to implement the Recommendation on Principles for Internet Policy Making, adopted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in December.
Leading the U.S. effort to establish these principles has been U.S. Ambassador to the OECD Karen Kornbluh, who delivered a keynote address reviewing how agreement on the recommendation was reached and the core values on which it is based. Following her remarks, Lawrence E. Strickling, assistant secretary for communication and information at the Department of Commerce, offered the Obama administration’s perspective on the next steps in constructing international policymaking principles that support the virtuous cycle of investment, access and innovation needed in today’s economic climate. A panel of experts, moderated by Danny Weitzner, White House deputy chief technology officer, then examined how the OECD principles fit into broader international efforts.
“A heavy handed approach to regulation doesn’t work,” said Ambassador Kornbluh. “We need to work together to protect [the Internet].”
Kornbluh noted the most pressing challenges facing voluntary Internet governance are three-fold: balancing constituents’ concerns with a free flow of information, combating cyber-autocracies (like Iran and Syria) and recognizing the dangers of other leaders who wish to impose their own form of Internet governance and implement restrictions.
Calling the adoption of the principles a major technology policy achievement in 2011, Assistant Secretary Strickling, also administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, reiterated his belief that an international treaty would stifle innovation, noting that the Internet does not operate on the monopolistic system of the old telecom model.
Robert Boorstin, director of public policy at Google, praised the OECD’s set of recommendations. “When was the last time a group of governments got together and decided they didn’t want to govern something? This is a big deal.”
According to Boorstin, “Multi-stakeholder initiatives will succeed because we have no other choice.” Countries that are trying to control the Internet will ultimately fail because of economic concerns and because people are learning how to get around barriers through various means, he also asserted.
Kathy Brown, senior vice president of Verizon, argued for letting information and data flow freely across borders as a means to ensure that the Internet can develop and lead economic development, not just for the first world but also for developing countries.” Our job is to be persuasive to constituents…in the developing world that there is a new way to govern,” said Brown.
All panelists spoke about the challenge to Internet freedom around the world and the need to protect the Internet as it continues to evolve.
“The Internet is a work in progress and we want it to remain that way,” said the White House’s Danny Weitzner.
“We’ve now reached the quarter-life crisis of the internet,” said Mark Cooper, director of research at the Consumer Federation of America. Cooper noted that the OECD’s recommendations embrace a fundamental set of principles that allow the internet the freedom to mature, unobstructed by government regulations.
The event concluded with Weitzner’s summation: “What will make the difference is that people recognizing a set of ideas to gather around and there’s a way to make progress together.”
This event was live tweeted using the hashtag #TechCTI.