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March 7, 2021

Keeping the internet free and open

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The internet connects more than two billion users, generates billions of dollars in revenue, fosters unprecedented levels of free trade and facilitates free speech worldwide. It does all this and more while remaining free from control by any one government, country or business. But can it remain that way?

Threats to the successful multi-stakeholder model of internet governance come regularly and in many forms: from big telecommunications companies that want to exert more control of it to regain lost revenues; from governments concerned with national security and intelligence vulnerabilities from increased cybercrime; and from countries that think they are underrepresented in the structures that manage the internet.

Defending a free and open internet while also maintaining its security and reliability requires vigilance and active engagement from all global stakeholders. The inaugural Australian Internet Governance Forum (auIGF) held in Canberra this week will gather together Australian and international internet experts and participants to ensure all parties have their voices heard in this ongoing and increasingly critical debate.

The immediate threat to the internet as we know it is the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to be held in Dubai in December this year. The conference will be convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations body that is only open to membership from governments.

A number of ITU member states are looking to WCIT as an opportunity to assert more control over the current internet governance model, threatening its open and free nature.

Several countries including Russia and China are proposing to regulate aspects of the internet concerned with cybercrime and national security issues. Other proposals focus on changes to technical coordination and standards-setting agreements that enable all devices, networks and software across the internet to connect and integrate reliably and securely.

‘The multi-stakeholder model for internet governance creates the best outcomes for the greatest number,’ .au Domain Administration CEO Chris Disspain said. ‘If we want to maintain the openness and interoperability of the internet, we need to let more people know about the developments that threaten these values and engage them in a dialogue that will help uphold them. That is goal that we have set for the auIGF.’

The auIGF is a multi-stakeholder conference that will bring government, industry and community members together to discuss internet-related policy issues, exchange ideas and best practices and help shape the future of the internet in Australia.

It is jointly convened by auDA, the internet Industry Association, the Australian chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC-AU), the Australian Communication Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC). It also has industry support from partners including Google, Facebook, iiNet, AusRegistry and Maddocks.

In addition to internet governance issues, the main themes of the auIGF include security and privacy, access and digital inclusion, openness and copyright.

The 2012 auIGF will be held at the Hotel Realm in Canberra today and tomorrow.


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