Internet Governance: Regulators Regulate, Innovators Innovate
The following is a guest post by Mason Cole of i2Coalition member company Donuts.
The Internet governance debate is devouring headlines, and has been for months as governments seek to expand their roles—for various reasons—in overseeing the domain name system (DNS). This culminated in the NetMundial meeting in Brazil in April, where Internet leaders and governments met to discuss this critical issue.
Meanwhile, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the technical coordinating body for the DNS, is furiously working to maintain its historic role as the caretaker of such an important resource.
And Congress, on occasion, raises its hand and weighs in on any number of subjects, from Whois usage down to specific approaching new generic top-level domains (gTLDs).
It’s often said that those in a position to regulate, do regulate. It’s the path of the stream and it tends to grow wider and more swift over time.
On the other side, innovators innovate. ICANN’s new gTLD program—eight years in the making before its culmination—has been meant to be a new and level playing field for innovation, competition and consumer choice. To provide specific, relevant Internet identities not available in the incumbent gTLDs, like .COM. To end an era of false scarcity and artificial limitation, and create a marketplace driven by real competition.
The registries participating in the program are already providing some of that value, to be sure, but we remain hobbled by a series of conscious policy decisions that intentionally constrain our ability to compete with the very incumbents against whom we were created to compete.
The steps we take now and in the coming months and years to level that playing field, and provide a real and competitive landscape, without the heavy hand of over-regulation will go a long way toward determining the success of the program and fulfilling its promise to the market.
It’s therefore essential that ICANN not only understand the danger of over-regulating the very program it created to foster innovation, but that it help governments and others understand the dangers of doing so. Artificial constraint, arbitrary rules, last-minute changes, misunderstandings of the market—all of these will endanger the success of the gTLD program and other innovations to follow.