Shall we rule the internet?

InternetWho will rule the network in the near future?

"We have a global domain name system. And this global domain name system must continue to be administered globally. If this system were to split up, the entire Internet system that we are used to today would, for example, be www can simply be entered on the Internet and we can be 100 percent sure that the right page will come out, that would possibly no longer be guaranteed if several different DNS roots existed in a chaotic constellation, for example. "

Manfred Kloiber:Warns Paul Fehlinger from the "Internet and Jurisdiction Project", a civil society organization that advocates the broadest possible participation of many interest groups in Internet administration. China and Russia, for example, have long been calling for a stronger national administration of the Internet. The American supervisory authority over the ICANN Internet administration stood in the way of this. But last Saturday the United States government announced that it would hand over this supervision of ICANN and thus the Internet by the end of 2015. Who will rule the internet from 2015, Peter Welchering?

Peter Welchering: That has to be clarified in a discussion process. It will take a long time and it will be tough. The starting shot for this will be given at the end of March 2014 at the ICANN conference in Singapore. Three models are currently being discussed for the future administration of the Internet. First: a stronger nationalization of the Internet with national Internet nodes. Second, the United Nations oversees the administration of the Internet. Thirdly, expanding the Internet Governance Forum into an international Internet parliament. Above all, China, Russia and the European Union have very different ideas here, which again differ greatly from those of the Internet bodies, such as the Internet Engineering Task Force, and from those of numerous civil society groups. "

Dispute over future leadership

Kloiber: So who rules the internet? This has been discussed for a long time. And this discussion has become a little confusing because many intergovernmental organizations, civil society groups, representatives of individual states and business representatives are arguing about so many different network bodies, their composition and their administration. And different regulations have been found in numerous declarations of commitment, contracts and memoranda. Internet activist Paul Fehlinger:

Which ring:It is about the contracts between the US Department of Commerce, more precisely the national telecommunications and information authority with ICANN, in order to exercise the so-called IANA function. This is English for the Internet Assignes Numbers Authority, and that means something like the Internet authority for the assignment of numbers. Think of it like this: this is a kind of notary function carried out by the US Department of Commerce to assign domain names, such as the top-level domains .de, .fr, .com, to different addresses on the Internet . This is practically the highest hierarchical authority in our name system on the Internet.

Kloiber: Without this Internet naming system, no e-mail would find its recipient and we would no longer be able to surf on websites. And the domain names and their assignment to specific address spaces on the Internet have been fiercely fought in the past. The supervision of the American telecommunications and information authority, or NTIA for short, was always called into question. In particular, many states refused to accept their right of veto on new domain names. Internet activist Paul Fehlinger explains what this is all about.

Paul Fehlinger: If ICANN says, for example, that we want to have a new domain name on the Internet, this request is, as it were, routed to the NTIA, which then gives the green light, whereupon Versign then enters it in the root zone. Think of it as a bit like an Excel spreadsheet. On the left column we have the names, .de, fr, com, and on the right side we have the corresponding Internet addresses so that the whole system works.

Proposal for an international network parliament

Kloiber: Not only Russia and China want to anchor these decisions about name extensions and about the administration of the address space as sovereign action of the individual states. Because internet blocking and surveillance measures are so much easier to carry out. Some civil society groups want to avoid this danger by setting up an international network parliament. And because the Internet Governance Forum has already discussed such regulatory issues, it could be expanded. Paul Fehlinger is skeptical about that.

Paul Fehlinger: One thing to consider with the IGF is that we don't know how after 2015 and in what form the IGF will continue to exist. In 2015 there will be the so-called WIC + 10 events. This is the event ten years after the UN summit on the information society, and this summit will again decide on the mandate of the IGF.

Kloiber: It is questionable whether the Internet Governnace Forum will even exist after 2015. It is not just individual states who would like to abolish it in order to be able to exercise more national control over the network. The International Telecommunication Union, abbreviated ITU, would like to dissolve the Internet Governance Forum. Because the ITU would like to take over the supervision of the ICANN itself and justifies this with its status as an organization of the United Nations. The ITU representatives argue that no one can have anything against UN oversight. Here, too, Paul Fehlinger is skeptical.

Which ring: Will there be a UN solution? The United States is very, very clear there too. They explicitly say that the NTIA will not accept that the current role it has in this Iana function will be replaced by any initiative or structure that is either led by a government or an intergovernmental, i.e. multilateral, organization is. This automatically excludes any UN or ITU regulation.

USA does not want a UN solution

Kloiber: The future Internet administration will be discussed at the ICANN meeting in Singapore next week. What can we expect from Singapore, Peter Welchering?

Which ring: The beginning of the discussion, no more than that. And then it will continue four weeks later at the Net Mondial meeting in Brazil. The fronts are clear: the USA does not want a UN solution. Russia and China want extensive national administration of the network. And the discussion about Schengen routing here is also going a bit in the same direction as the renationalization of the network. Many civil society groups, on the other hand, adhere to the so-called multi-stakeholder model.

Kloiber: Multi-stakeholder model, we have to explain that a little. What does such a model for Internet administration look like?

Which ring: All those involved in the Internet, called stakeholders, i.e. states, the UN, business associations, civil society groups and those interested in technology get together to found a new administrative organization for the Internet. Each of these stakeholders should be represented in this organization. There have been several attempts to do this in the past, for example the world information summit in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005. There is to be a new world information summit in 2015, and it will then also formally define the new form of Internet administration. So it was a good year for a debate that has not carried us on in the past ten to twelve years.

Supervision could remain with the US

Kloiber: What happens if those involved in the network, the stakeholders, cannot agree on a formal solution for managing the Internet at the planned 2015 World Information Summit?

Which ring: Then the Internet will initially remain under the supervision of the American telecommunications and information authority NTIA, i.e. under the sovereignty of the US Department of Commerce. The American government does not officially admit this, but in its decision not to renew the contracts between ICANN and NTIA in 2015, it added in fine print that the American telecommunications authority is the future form of administration for the Internet that ICANN will present must, must approve, otherwise it remains the responsibility of the Ministry of Commerce. Whether this can still be politically enforced in 2015 is questionable, because not only the civil society groups and the business associations are putting pressure on their models, a group of states led by Russia and China are also putting pressure on and want the renationalization of the Internet. The USA cannot simply say in September 2015: April, April, we will carry on as before.

Kloiber: What influence did the NSA affair have, did Edward Snowden's revelations have on the decision of the American government to relinquish sovereignty over the Internet?

Which ring: The decisive factor - the debate has been going on for a long time, so far some extensions to the Internet administration, but ultimately it remained with the American supervisory authority. The massive criticism in the context of the NSA affair from the economy, from network users and also from states had a decisive influence on this decision. And Brazil really wanted to initiate this with the Net-Mondial, which will now take place in April.