Report: EU to push to reduce US role in Internet governance

A new policy proposal from the European Commission is scheduled to be released Wednesday

The European Union will push for diminished U.S. influence on Internet governance because of "loss of confidence" in the current U.S.-centric model, according to a news report.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the E.U., is set Wednesday to propose a series of steps to globalize Internet governance functions, reported The Wall Street Journal, citing an E.U. draft policy paper. The proposal is sparked by revelations of mass U.S. surveillance activities online, the newspaper said.

"Large-scale surveillance and intelligence activities have ... led to a loss of confidence in the Internet and its present governance arrangements," the Journal quotes the policy paper as saying.

ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), with headquarters in California, currently oversees Internet governance issues, including the assignment of top-level domains. The U.S. government and ICANN have a long-standing operating agreement, but in recent years, many countries have questioned the arrangement.

The European policy paper seems to reject a U.N. takeover of Internet governance functions, by rejecting calls for a new international legal regime. The paper calls for a multistakeholder process that ICANN trumpets as its current model. An ICANN spokesman didn't have an immediate comment on the proposal.

"The Internet should remain a single, open, free, unfragmented network of networks, subject to the same laws and norms that apply in other areas of our day-to-day lives," the E.U. document said, according to the Journal. "Its governance should be based on an inclusive, transparent and accountable multistakeholder model."

An E.U. spokesman said the organization is committed to "finding a middle path" to globalize Internet governance. "We want to make the multi stakeholder model sustainable rather than replace it," he said by email.

ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehade, since taking over the organization in mid-2012, has concentrated on giving ICANN a more international focus, and he's opened offices in Turkey, Singapore, Beijing and Geneva.

Governments including Russia, China and Brazil have called for more international governance of the Internet in recent years. Since last year's revelations about broad U.S. National Security Agency surveillance programs, Brazil has proposed to wall off its Internet traffic from U.S. networks.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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