Let's have a look at what last year meant for Internet Governance!
Firstly, the contract between the US government and ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) governing a key technical function (IANA) of the Domain Name System expired in October. The oversight role carried out until then by the US government through this contract has been transferred to the global internet community through a series of new mechanisms introduced via ICANN Bylaws. This was something the EU had long been calling for. What it means in practice is that, rather than being contracted to one single country, ICANN is now directly accountable to the global Internet community. This is made of a wide mix of stakeholders – from technical experts and business to governments, civil society and academia.
2016 closed with the first Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting following the extension of its mandate for 10 years by the United Nations General Assembly. The IGF took place in Guadalajara (Mexico) on 6-9 December, with the theme "Enabling Inclusive and Sustainable Growth". A large delegation of Members of the European Parliament participated, and they advocated strongly for "clear rules and respect for rights and liberties on the Internet" (see press statement).
In the EU, major developments of direct relevance for internet governance and policy included the entry into force of the first ever EU rules on net neutrality (protecting the right of every European to access internet content without discrimination). Another milestone was the adoption of the first EU-wide legislation on cybersecurity (the Network and Information Security Directive). The Commission proposed several legislative initiates to developing the Digital Single Market, including on the reform of the copyright system. In parallel, the European Commission has worked with social media companies on the creation of a Code of Conduct on hate speech online.
The intensification of internet governance activities both on the international front and in the EU does not come as a surprise, given the importance of this extraordinary technology. The internet opens new and exciting opportunities but it also raises challenges.
In 2017, discussions will continue on the many still unresolved or contentious issues. In the face of rising worrying phenomena such as cybercrime, hate speech and fake news, stakeholders have to engage in complex discussions on issues such as the interplay of privacy, data protection, freedom of expression, security, the fight against criminal and illegal activities, as well as the jurisdictional challenges posed by the cross-border nature of the internet. At the same time the internet is in continuous evolution: the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, disruptive business models based on the Internet, blockchain technologies.
In these discussions, it is imperative to have a clear vision of the Internet that we want for ourselves and especially for future generations. This is why the European Commission has launched an ambitious initiative called Next Generation Internet (NGI), with the aim to deliver an Internet that holds people and their needs at its core.
2017 internet governance week, taking place in Brussels, aims to raise more awareness of these discussions and make them as inclusive as possible, as well as to understand what are the key values and principles the EU stands for.
On 23 January, experts for the Member States will gather for a meeting of the "High Level Group on Internet governance". The meeting includes an open, multistakeholder session in the afternoon. Participants will have the opportunity to exchange views on Internet governance issues. Topics on the agenda include: ongoing ICANN processes, IGF follow-up, and an update on the Global Internet Policy Observatory. For info and registration, please contact CNECT-HLIG@ec.europa.eu
On 24 January, experts from the technical community will gather with governments and regulators in a dedicated Roundtable organised by RIPE NCC, to discuss issues such as accountability of all actors in the internet governance ecosystem, as well as the security challenges facing the industry and the practical strategies to address them. RIPE NCC is one of the five Regional Internet Registries in the world that distributes Internet number resources and provides registration services and coordination activities for Europe and the Middle East Region. For more information visit the webpage.
On the same day, MEPs will discuss how open service platforms can be catalysers for economic opportunities and jobs with business and other stakeholder service platforms. The main focus will be on how Europe can achieve a global leadership role in the emerging industrial Internet. You can learn more on the European Internet Forum website.
On 25 January, the European Internet Forum will host a breakfast debate on the IGF meeting to exchange views on the next steps.
All this gives us an energetic start to the year and I am confident that European stakeholders will maintain their commitment to keep the internet open and working smoothly. We will all work together to find solutions for the challenges ahead.