Opening Remarks at the 2013 Internet Governance Forum
Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Good afternoon everyone. It is a pleasure for me to be here with you today. The United States would like to thank the IGF Secretariat and the Multistakeholder Advisory Group for organizing our week together in Bali. And of course, we thank our gracious Indonesian hosts.
The United States deeply values being a part of the IGF community. That is why this year the U.S. Government made a significant donation to the IGF Trust Fund, a contribution of $350,000, demonstrating our commitment to this institution and its continued vitality.
The architects of the Internet built it as an open, inclusive platform. As a result, the Internet today is no more one country’s than another’s; it is no more any one stakeholder’s than another’s.
Having grown in a manner unprecedented in the history of communications, the Internet is serving as a springboard for human development worldwide, a springboard that grows economies, enables democratic discourse, broadens opportunities, and launches innovation.
The question for us at this IGF is how do we embrace that accomplishment and continue to advance?
The United States welcomes this discussion. We support an open dialogue on the modernization and evolution of the multi-stakeholder system that enables the operation of the global Internet. Bottom-up, inclusive, cooperative efforts to empower users and further enable innovation free from arbitrary intergovernmental control are what the U.S. has called for all along. And we believe that the proper response to concerns related to the Internet’s development, from bridging the remaining digital divide to protecting children online to developing best practices for securing networks, lies in the cooperative work between and within the multi-stakeholder institutions that its founders empowered.
The Internet’s universal deployment will depend on us encouraging and enabling private investment in technology and infrastructure that will drive down the cost of access.
To demonstrate our commitment to affordable Internet access for everyone, the United States government proposed and worked with a variety of stakeholders to launch the creation of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, a coalition of nearly 30 partners from private sector, public sector, and civil society organizations. This multinational, multi-stakeholder coalition stands together in its aim to provide affordable Internet access in developing countries. We also operate the Global Broadband Initiative out of USAID which is working with countries to develop universal service programs and national broadband plans. And, the private sector is investing heavily in wireless solutions to bridge the world’s remaining digital divide. There is always more to be done, and collectively, we should. But we think these efforts are positive contributions to these very real challenges.
Separately, the leaders of the Internet’s multi-stakeholder governing organizations have renewed calls to modernize the Internet’s governing system and make it more inclusive. Their recent statement from Montevideo should be seen as an opportunity to seek that broad inclusion and for organizing multistakeholder responses to Internet issues that do not have a home today. And we must work together with them in good faith on these important issues. I think we can and all should agree that this effort cannot be used or manipulated in a way that centralizes power over the Internet in the hands of any one stakeholder.
We should guard against recent arguments for centralized intergovernmental control of the Internet that have used recent news stories about intelligence programs for justification. I can assure you that the United States government takes the concerns many of you have expressed regarding the recent NSA disclosures very seriously, and I certainly understand the desire to raise related issues here. As with all difficult issues we have discussed in this forum over the years, let us remain good stewards of the Internet. As we mark the opening of the IGF, let us use this time together to construct solutions to the digital divide. Let us work cooperatively to improve the trust, confidence, and security of our networks. Let us continue promoting an open Internet that can serve as a platform for innovation and job growth.
Let us think creatively to bring more developing country stakeholders to the tables of our multi-stakeholder Internet institutions. And let us grow and evolve together. After all, that’s what has brought us here today – a common appreciation for the good that the Internet has enabled and an interest in the future of the Internet to perpetuate those benefits and brings them to all corners of the globe. So let’s continue in the spirit of the IGF to work together and engage in robust and candid discussions here this week, capture them in a way that is useful for each of us as we take the next steps, and ensure that we make the most of this compelling opportunity.