Earlier this week, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the executive branch agency responsible for telecommunications and information policy, released a Notice of Inquiry requesting that any interested party—including the private sector, technical experts, academics, and civil society—help the agency determine its international internet policy priorities. In particular, NTIA is seeking comments and recommendations regarding four topics: (1) the free flow of information and jurisdiction, (2) the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance, (3) privacy and security, and (4) emerging technologies and trends.
The Notice includes various questions regarding each topic that NTIA would like commenters to address (although commenters are free to address issues not specifically raised in the Notice), several of which are notable. For example, the agency states that foreign governments are increasingly imposing restrictions on the free movement of data—sometimes for “legitimate” reasons such as privacy but sometimes for “less valid” reasons such as the stifling of political speech. In light of this trend, NTIA asks commenters to help it identify the most pressing challenges to the free flow of information and expression on the internet. The agency also asks commenters to identify foreign laws and policies that restrict information or expression online (such as court orders to globally remove online information) and the impact that those laws and policies have on U.S. companies.
NTIA also notes that it has historically supported a multistakeholder process to internet governance through organizations such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) or the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). However, the Notice invites comments on whether this existing multistakeholder process is working effectively. NTIA specifically asks what its priorities should be with respect to ICANN, including whether the agency should unwind the IANA Stewardship Transition, which resulted in management of the internet’s domain name system transitioning from the U.S. government to the private sector.
Finally, the Notice asks commenters the extent to which cybersecurity threats are harming international commerce and what emerging technologies or trends should be the focus of the agency’s international policy discussion.
NTIA’s request for input on international internet policy follows the EU’s GDPR going into effect on May 25, 2018. It appears that the debate around GDPR—and in particular the impact GDPR may have on U.S. internet companies—might have informed some of the questions posed in the Notice. This policy debate has recently made news as GDPR has resulted in changes to internet governance and commerce. For example, ICANN, which is the subject of various questions in the Notice, had to overhaul the WHOIS database that contains contact information of internet domain owners.
Comments are due by July 2, 2018.