With an agreement between the U.S. Department of Commerce and ICANN (the nonprofit Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, headquartered in California) expiring on September 30, global bureaucrats salivate. As I write today in Forbes, they like to criticize ICANN leadership — hoping to gain political control — but too often ignore the huge success of the private-sector-led system.
How has the world fared under the existing model?
In the 10 years of the Commerce-ICANN relationship, Web users around the globe have grown from 300 million to almost 2 billion. World Internet traffic blossomed from around 10 million gigabytes per month to almost 10billion, a near 1,000-fold leap. As the world economy grew by approximately 50%, Internet traffic grew by 100,000%. Under this decade of private sector leadership, moreover, the number of Internet users in North America grew around 150% while the number of users in the rest of the world grew almost 600%. World growth outpaced U.S. growth.
Can we really digest this historic shift? In this brief period, the portion of the globe’s population that communicates electronically will go from negligible to almost total. From a time when even the elite accessed relative spoonfuls of content, to a time in the near future when the masses will access all recorded information.
These advances do not manifest a crisis of Internet governance.
As for a real crisis? See what happens when politicians take the Internet away from the engineers who, in a necessarily cooperative fashion, make the whole thing work. Criticism of mild U.S. government oversight of ICANN is hardly reason to invite micromanagement by an additional 190 governments.