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Moving Together Beyond Dubai

April 2, 2013

The following blog post originally appeared on the website of the United States Telecommunications and Training Institute (USTTI).

I am honored to offer the inaugural contribution to the United States Telecommunications and Training Institute (USTTI) blog. USTTI has been an important institution for cooperation and the mutual sharing of expertise to meet our shared challenges with respect to communications technology. The United States Government remains committed to this example of enhanced cooperation and the friendships and cooperation that result from USTTI programs.

Today the world’s citizens are benefitting from the growth and innovation of the Internet. The Internet has flourished because of the approach taken from its infancy to resolve technical and policy questions. Known as the multistakeholder process, it involves the full involvement of all stakeholders, consensus-based decision-making and operating in an open, transparent and accountable manner. The multistakeholder model has promoted freedom of expression, both online and off. It has ensured the Internet is a robust, open platform for innovation, investment, economic growth and the creation of wealth throughout the world, including in developing countries.

For these reasons, the United States Government is committed to the multistakeholder model as the appropriate process for addressing Internet policy and governance issues. We believe that the Internet’s decentralized, multistakeholder processes enable us all to benefit from the engagement of all interested parties. By encouraging the participation of industry, civil society, technical and academic experts, and governments from around the globe, multistakeholder processes result in broader and more creative problem solving than traditional governmental approaches.

I appreciate that some of you may have other perspectives or experiences regarding existing multistakeholder institutions. At NTIA, we have made it a priority to work with colleagues so that these institutions are more welcoming to all governments and provide governments a meaningful role in decision-making processes. One example is the substantial reform made over the last three years at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to make its Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) more responsive to government needs and more effective in ensuring that decisions of ICANN’s Board take public policy concerns into account. We recognize however that more needs to be done and that these efforts need to seek the engagement of all nations. The same can be said for the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), where we are committed to getting the necessary funding and staffing to allow the IGF to flourish as a venue for all stakeholders, including governments, to participate in meaningful problem solving discussions.

In Dubai, I had the privilege to hear first hand from many of you about the real and practical challenges you face on issues such as maintaining sustainable investment in communication infrastructure and online problems of spam, child pornography and the like. We have many, if not all, of the same challenges in the United States. The environment of tense, politically charged treaty negotiations did not serve as a venue for constructive dialogue and unfortunately, we could not reach consensus with respect to the final outcomes of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT).

The Dubai experience in no way lessens our desire to listen and understand the needs of the developing world and to work collaboratively on meaningful solutions. In fact, it is just the opposite. Luckily, venues like USTTI, the IGF, and bilateral meetings allow us to sit down for frank and honest exchanges, in the way friends can do, to find practical and informed solutions as well as methods for sustained capacity building. As we move forward, the United States is fully committed to engage in these dialogues and if we need to consider new, flexible mechanisms to solve problems, we are committed to work with governments and other stakeholders to do just that.

Decentralized control over the Internet involving innovators, entrepreneurs and experts is far preferable to a top-down government approach that has political dealmakers charting the future of the Internet, especially for citizens of countries in the developing world. We need to work together to chart a course beyond Dubai that considers these matters in suitable multistakeholder venues so that discussions are well informed by the voices of all interested parties. Our shared commitment should be to ensure that our respective citizens benefit from the Internet and our USTTI bonds provide a solid foundation for us to chart a path forward together.