Brazilian Internet Pioneer Attacks "Anti-Democratic" Internet Goveranance
Date: Wednesday January 29 2003, @09:20AM
Topic: The Big Picture
The Internet Democracy Project (via its useful highlights service), carries a pointer to an item originally reported by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). It's an account of a talk on "New technologies and strategies for digital inclusion and social change" held at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, at which the "the Father of the Brazilian Internet," Carlos Afonso attacked both ICANN and Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (.br) accusing them of being anti-democratic, and in the case of the .br managers of failing to account for their funds. (As the Internet Democracy Project notes, this is the same Brazilian Internet Steering Committee which is hosting ICANN's March 2003 meeting
in Rio de Janeiro.)
Here's a quote from the APC report:
Afonso, who has been called the Father of the Brazilian Internet, ... also criticized the anti-democratic nature of Internet
governance. He explained to the audience that the Internet is governed by
an organization existing in parallel to other formally elected governments.
There is a worldwide Internet government with a pyramidal structure. A
not-for-profit that heads it manages the thirteen root servers controlling
the Internet. This organization, ICANN, is registered in the USA and is
hence subject to US laws, not the international community. Many people are
not even aware of the existence of this body, said Afonso.
The antidemocratic nature of Internet administration filters down and is
reproduced at national level, claimed Afonso. The management of the
Brazilian Internet is in the hands of the Brazilian Internet Steering
Committee, a group of volunteers who are appointed by the ministries of
Science & Technology and Communications. Despite having a two year mandate,
the same people have remained on the committee since 1995. To make matters
more obscure, the administrators typically make their decisions behind
closed doors. For instance, recently, the organization decided unilaterally
to reduce the price of domain names (ie. website addresses) in Brazil. This
may seem a positive move, however the sale of domain names is not
uncontroversial in Brazil. Each year, $5,000,000 US dollars is raised from
the sale of domain names and the money is not accounted for, said Afonso
indignantly. As a technical director, he knows that the administration
costs of domain name sales are much lower.
"The remainder of the money could be used for digital inclusion projects
but it is not," said Afonso. "The Brazilian Internet Steering Committee
does not even reveal what it does with the income." Afonso believes that
the move to reduce domain name prices (which are already just US$12 per
year per domain) is an attempt to gain sympathy with the Brazilian Internet
community in the wake of news of the committee's mismanagement. "This price
reduction means that if the excess funds fund digital inclusion projects by
the new government, less money will be available for this, so civil society
would like to discuss this first. Messing with prices in this arbitrary way
and without public consultation just shows that the mismanagement continues."
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