NETmundial – Multi-stakeholder Internet governance moves forward

Posted by Paul Mitchell
General Manager, Technology Policy Group, Microsoft

Today, NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, wrapped up in São Paulo, Brazil. NETmundial proved to be an excellent forum for gathering insights from stakeholders in an inclusive, global and transparent way. NETmundial added momentum to efforts to strengthen the Internet governance ecosystem as a whole, although there is more work to be done. This is particularly important as we begin the process towards the transition of the U.S. NTIA’s historic stewardship role over Key Internet Domain Name Functions to the global multi-stakeholder community and as new challenges arise due to the growth of the cloud, big data, the Internet of Things and other technologies. 

Equally important, NETmundial was accompanied by Brazil’s passage of its own Internet Framework Law (Marco Civil da Internet). The meeting opened with a flourish as Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff signed this bill into law in front of the 800 delegates gathered from at least 91 countries. From Microsoft, I attended with Mehmet Akcin from our global network services team.  

The meeting was stimulated by ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé’s visit to Brazil last fall to meet with President Dilma Rousseff and was hosted by CGI.BR, the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee. The purpose was to discuss principles of Internet governance and a roadmap for future development of the ecosystem. 

Over the past few months, governments, academics, private sector organizations and members of the technical community contributed 188 input documents and over 1,300 additional comments on various aspects of Internet governance. These inputs reflect the degree to which modern life relies on and is shaped by the Internet. As Sir Tim-Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, noted in his address, 25 years ago nobody knew about the Web, today we rely on it for shopping, banking, healthcare, government services and nearly everything else. That’s why people care so much about Internet governance today. It matters.

While many were skeptical about the ability of this meeting to achieve meaningful outcomes, there was a lot of consensus. EU Vice President Neelie Kroes in her address to the meeting noted that there is more that we agree on than that we don’t. The outcome statement highlights those areas of agreement – particularly the importance of preserving the open Internet in a manner that enables innovation, the importance of ensuring that the Internet is accessible to all persons, including those with disabilities, the need to strengthen and support the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), and the importance of all stakeholders having a voice in Internet governance.

Of course, the meeting also had its heated debates – including over the proper forum for net neutrality protections, the proper role of governments as part of a multi-stakeholder Internet governance ecosystem, and mass surveillance. Despite these differences of opinion, NETmundial succeeded in helping people understand differing views and perspectives on issues where consensus could not be reached.

We congratulate President Dilma Rousseff and the people of Brazil for hosting such a successful NETmundial conference which has added such positive momentum to stakeholder’s efforts to strengthen the Internet governance ecosystem as a whole. We look forward to continuing discussions at this year’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Istanbul in early September, and the quadrennial plenipotentiary meeting of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) being held in Busan, Korea this fall.