Public Policy and Negotiation in the Age of Global Open Networks and the Interdependent Digital Economy

Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda
Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
International Institute of Communications
Miami, FL
May 28, 2015

As prepared

Thank you. We appreciate the International Institute of Communications’ focus on the region and your annual aggregation of telecommunications and technology regulators and industry from across the Americas here in Miami.

We are all facing the challenge of adapting to a more complex global and domestic technology and telecommunications policy environment than existed even only a decade ago. And we are only two stakeholder groups in the passionate community of activists, technologists, academics, and people who simply care about the future of communications and are active in our public debates on policy issues.

The policy space is more important and more populated than ever before. We need to make space for the new entrants, including a growing civil society community interested in these issues, and work collaboratively to ensure an environment for cooperation and deliberation that leads to sound policy outcomes.

Toward that end, our government is working with stakeholders at home and abroad to engage in a process of dialogue and deliberation that systematically enables people across various communities to respect each other, focus on what we can get done through public policy, and explain and analyze our differences in a way that sheds as much light as heat.

It is a work in progress, and sometimes heated rhetoric sets us back temporarily. But there are markers of achievement to point to over the last year. In particular, multistakeholder mechanisms and institutions are maturing to help effectuate the evolution from our traditional top-down approaches to telecommunications policy to a much flatter and more inclusive policy development and decision making process for the global Internet. By flatter, I mean that as leaders in both government and industry, we are becoming and need to become more accessible to and engaged directly with citizens and consumers.

The United States government recognized that fact and engages the public in our rule-making processes and policy discussions in various ways. For example, the FCC conducted a public process of deliberation and stakeholder input in the construction of the Open Internet order and in the opening of our airwaves to more mobile broadband communications. Those decisions will lead to additional engagement and activity in the coming year to effectuate and maximize competition and access to an open Internet.

We have seen a similar public engagement process play out in Brazil in the way it hosted the NETMundial conference last year and in its development and adoption of its Marco Civil and subsequent efforts. We expect and understand that Europe will also use an open and inclusive process as it proceeds with its pursuit of a Digital Single Market. And as we move forward, we will all have to use an open and inclusive process to best capture the opportunities that the modern digital economy can create in each of our markets and across borders.

Internationally, stakeholders have gathered over the last year at the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul, at ICANN in various venues around the globe, and in numerous conferences and dialogues like this one held almost monthly somewhere at home or abroad to learn from each other and deliberate the best ways forward for the digital economy and ecosystem.

Even the traditional international multilateral organizations where I focus my work – from the International Telecommunication Union to the OECD to APEC and the OAS -- have all heard the clarion call for improved public engagement with nongovernmental stakeholders on an equal footing. Again, there is still work to do, but inclusion and open deliberation are increasingly more common because people are demanding it and the Internet enables it.

More inclusion and greater participation may make it harder to get people to a common view. But the struggle is worth it. Over the last two years, I have led delegations to many multilateral forums in which we engaged in negotiations over international telecommunications and technology policy. From the ITU World Telecommunications Policy Forum and World Telecommunications Development Conference in 2013 to the International Telecommunication Union Plenipotentiary Conference last October and most recently at the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development’s 18th Session two weeks ago, we have been able to achieve consensus outcomes and produce joint resolutions across disparate points of view and in various open and closed door settings.

Multiple gaps in opinion between governments and across stakeholders existed at each of those gatherings on a series of issues related to the governance of the Internet and global communications, and those gaps remain.

What we have found works well to help bridge differences, or allow us to set them aside, is engaging in open and respectful deliberation and an airing of views on the issues where we disagree, delving into the areas where we have an agreement of goals if not policy strategies, and working to see what we can do together to achieve those goals while creating a space for future exploration of the areas of disagreement without declaring an impasse.

We can all agree on the goal of global connectivity and making digital opportunities available in every community in every nation. That was our focus ten years ago at the World Summit on the Information Society and should remain our focus as we continue efforts to reduce the digital divide and create a development focused Information Society. We need to be creative, pursue interoperable public policies, and ensure that markets are not fragmented through data localization initiatives or other laws that break up markets into parochial intranets of activity. It is on that platform that we can achieve universal access to networks.

Our biggest challenge is ensuring that we can find pro-market, stable regulatory strategies for meeting people’s needs for connectivity. We also need to make sure people have the skills and capacity to use that connectivity for the development of broadly shared prosperity. There is no top-down or siloed way to meet that challenge. We will all have to do it together in our stakeholder communities or the false promise of centrally imposed solutions through international regulation will gain traction with those who feel digitally left behind.

It is a challenge we can meet. And we look forward to working with you to meet it.

Thank you.