The Speed of ProgressJun 28th, 2012 | By Britta Glennon
Lawrence Strickling is the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). He has overseen the development of a Recovery Act broadband grant program, launched the United States’ first public and searchable nationwide map of consumer broadband Internet availability, and crafted a ten-year plan to double the amount of commercial spectrum available for wireless broadband.
One major challenge for policymakers is the speed with which the Internet changes. How can they keep up?
It is true that the Internet moves faster than most regulatory and treaty-making processes, so finding a timely solution to policy issues is a fundamental concern. I think the future of Internet governance is in multi-stakeholder groups, not bureaucracies.
In the U.S., there are over ten government bodies that are involved in Internet policy, and that doesn’t include international bodies such as the ITU. The processes, time, and effort it takes to coordinate with all these people are considerable, but that’s how government works. The time periods under which the government usually works to enact and update laws are too long to keep up with the rapid changes in the Internet.
By engaging all interested parties, multi-stakeholder processes encourage broader and more creative problem solving, which is essential when markets and technology are changing as rapidly as they are. They promote speedier, more flexible decision making than is common under traditional, top-down regulatory models that can too easily fall prey to rigid procedures, bureaucracy, and stalemate.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently invited applications for more global top-level domains (gTLDs). What is your view on expanding gTLDs (for example, to include names such as “.nike” or “.sony”) amid worries of excessive cost and harm to brand owners?
I am convinced that the expansion of top-level domains can help businesses. It can help in search optimization, verification, and brand recognition.
While I am sympathetic to concerns of U.S. businesses regarding some of ICANN’s implementation details, I believe that the correct approach is to work within ICANN processes to address those concerns — not for the U.S. government to attempt to unilaterally overturn of the outcome of ICANN’s global multi-stakeholder process.
It would be bad for the Internet if we tried to stop this, as it would provide ammunition to governments that seek greater control of the Internet.
There is a shortage of radio spectrum for mobile devices in the U.S., resulting in dropped calls and slow browsing speeds. How should policymakers approach this problem?
In the past, the government freed up spectrum for industry by clearing a spectrum band of federal agency users who typically relocated to other bands. But with the growing demand for spectrum, the complexity of federal operations, and the time and cost it takes to relocate federal users, the old approach alone is no longer feasible. Spectrum is a finite resource, and we need to find innovative new ways to maximize its use.
I think the best path forward is a combination of relocating federal users and sharing spectrum between federal agencies and commercial users. We are convening federal agencies and industry to work together on this.
Feature photo: cc/David Clow