Remarks of Alan Davidson
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
ICANN at 25: More Important Than Ever
Thank you Nico, and thank you all for being here for this important conversation. I’d like to acknowledge the hard work of the Governmental Advisory Committee and its commitment to the multistakeholder process. I know it’s not always easy, but it is worth it.
First, let me welcome you to Washington, D.C. It is hard to believe that this is the first ICANN meeting in the capital of the United States, and we are so happy to have you here, in our city.
ICANN at 25
Collectively, we have come a long way together since the early days of ICANN. In fact, this year marks the 25th anniversary of ICANN. As someone who was around for those early days, it’s amazing to think about how much the Internet has changed.
When ICANN began in 1998, there were less than 150 million people on the Internet. Today, there are roughly 5 billion. When ICANN began there were no smartphones, no social media.
Through the incredible growth of the Internet, the operation of its unique identifier systems – the Internet’s Names and Numbers – has been stable and secure. The result has been an open, accessible, unfragmented Internet.
That is the ICANN success story. ICANN has not been around for this long without overcoming a few challenges. But each time it has been tested, this community has shown the value of its bottom-up, consensus-based policy-making approach.
The Multistakeholder Model is Critical for ICANN’s Success
The Internet continues to work properly for people worldwide because of the technical and policy coordination that happens at ICANN.
This is a testament to the success of the multistakeholder system of Internet governance. Multistakeholder processes can sometimes be slow-going. Their outcomes are hard earned. They incorporate the views and expertise of the technical community, industry, and civil society, alongside governments. But that’s a feature, not a bug: The products of multistakeholder cooperation are far more durable for the global Internet than top-down regulation.
It is more important than ever that we commit to this multistakeholder approach: People of good faith, from diverse perspectives, coming together in the spirit of collegiality to solve problems of common interest. It is not an exaggeration to say the Internet would not exist without it.
The GAC at ICANN
In this context, the Government Advisory Committee at ICANN plays a special and important role. This committee – the GAC, as we affectionately call it – is the place where we in government find common ground and resolve issues of general import.
Governments have a special role to play in providing key input on public policy issues at ICANN. This input is of particular importance, and it’s why governments should participate. We need a diversity of perspectives and a diversity of voices coming into the GAC.
The United States wants the multistakeholder system of Internet governance to continue to succeed. To support this system, we urge all governments to engage in the GAC at ICANN.
We are glad you are here, and hope you will continue to engage in the spirit of collective problem solving and collegiality.
Our work at NTIA focuses on building a better-connected world. One that fosters open and inclusive communications, one that protects security and privacy, and one that respects human rights.
The Internet we want – one that enables fundamental freedoms and promotes innovation – depends on the success of the multistakeholder approach at work at places like ICANN.
When individual governments try to regulate a shared, global network, we risk Internet fragmentation. This is counter to the vision of a global Internet that has made the Internet the essential tool for communications in our modern world.
When we come together with expert stakeholders to solve problems collectively, we enable that better world of connection. This is why the ICANN community must continue to fulfill the policy development role for the Internet’s global naming and numbering systems.
To close, I will say that we see ICANN as the central venue supporting an open, accessible, and unfragmented Internet.
The U.S. has been involved with ICANN since the beginning and always has supported the multistakeholder approach.
This approach has thrived in the last 25 years because it works. I look forward to watching it grow and succeed for the next 25.