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The Illusion of Internet Governance

There’s been a lot of controversy over the U.S. Government’s proposal to give up their supervisory role over ICANN. This lead Karl Auerbach, one of the only people ever elected to represent end-users in cyberspace, to write this letter to Congress.

Karl did an excellent job as North America’s first elected representative in cyberspace. He fought for things that would have made Internet governance more representative, and more transparent.

Unfortunately for all of us, he ended up losing most of these battles, and in the end, losing the war as well (when ICANN revoked end user representation).

This was not Karl’s fault. In fact, it was anticipated, and one reason that the Commerce Department was originally tasked with overseeing ICANN in the first place.

From the beginning, there have been two opposing camps in this debate: One fighting for an open, representative, and transparent governance structure ... and one fighting for something else.

Something else won.

In order to secure their victory, however, the winning camp was forced to allow limited end-user representation on their board, and ongoing Commerce Department oversight.

These were hard fought concessions.

Apparently for naught ...

As Karl describes it, there’s never really been effective end-user representation in the direction of ICANN, and there’s never really been much visible oversight by the NTIA.

Now the Commerce Department wants to allow ICANN to govern itself, and possibly even move to another country.

Should we really be surprised?

Why would we expect a dysfunctional government, one that has been increasingly captured by monied interests, to be able to create a governing structure for the Internet that isn’t subject to hidden levers of control ... and capture?

Truth of the matter is, ICANN is a reflection of what our own government has become. They are both cloaked in dysfunction, while the real power brokers remain hidden from view, and benefit from the ignorance of the masses.

(More than $400,000,000 for ICANN in 2013 alone.)

Comments welcome ...

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