European ICANN reform proposal draws industry ire

A proposal for ICANN oversight does not take into account the needs of the private sector, trade groups contend

Europe's efforts to internationalize the running of the Internet's governance body were criticized by three leading trade groups Monday for failing to take account of the needs of the private sector.

Oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) by an intergovernmental body, as the European Commission proposed in May, "would contradict the goal to move ICANN responsibilities to the private sector and would not appropriately take into account all stakeholders," said groups representing former telecommunication monopolies, ISPs and mobile phone companies in a joint statement.

ICANN is a private nonprofit corporation established in California and partly controlled by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The joint project agreement between ICANN and the federal agency expires in September.

Two months ago, Viviane Reding, the European commissioner in charge of the information society and the telecoms industry, said the U.S. government's involvement in ICANN is "not defendable", and she called for the creation of a G-12 intergovernmental group for Internet governance to take the place of the Department of Commerce. She also called for the creation of an independent, international tribunal to judge ICANN decisions.

The trade groups -- ETNO, EuroISPA and GSMA Europe -- said that instead of more governmental involvement in ICANN, there should be less, with full control eventually handed over to the private sector.

"The accountability of ICANN to its entire stakeholder community is the cornerstone of its transition to a fully independent and privatized international organization in its own right for the benefit of global stakeholders," the trade groups said.

Meanwhile, ICANN's recently appointed CEO Rod Beckstrom also criticized Reding's comments in May. In an interview with the International Herald Tribune over the weekend, he said he would oppose efforts to fragment ICANN.

"Part of the power of the Internet is that the standards that parties have to agree on are so minimal," he was quoted as saying to the newspaper.

He also dismissed Reding's idea for an international tribunal. Currently, legal challenges to ICANN decisions almost always take place in California courts. Beckstrom wants to keep it that way: "California law is good law for technology," he is reported to have said.

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