IGF-USA: An Introduction

This week the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. is hosting the 2016 Internet Governance Forum-USA. This annual event brings together technologists, policy makers, academics, and people interested in Internet policy for a day of panels and discussions on a range of Internet topics from network neutrality to rural access. Based upon the global Internet Governance Forum the IGF-USA brings together a diverse group for a day of directed discussions and conversations.

One of this year’s big topics is likely to be the U.S. Government’s initiative to relinquish its oversight over the over ICANN, the organization that administers the Internet’s domain name system (DNS). They make the rules for the companies that run .com and .org. The historical origins of the Internet as a government technology have made this a sensitive subject both in the U.S. and abroad, but for the last few years, dedicated people have been drafting and redrafting the transition plan which is being now reviewed by the government. Because of their work, end users are unlikely to notice any change in their everyday Internet experience and that’s the point.

You can listen and participate in this and other discussions which will be webcast. You can also follow #IGFUSA2016 on twitter. I’ll see you online. 

Internet Advocacy Differently: AIU FAQs

We’ve been receiving a lot of questions about the AIU. Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs):

Q: Why is this a U.S. organization? What about other countries?

A:  Internet users around the world bring different values to the policy table based upon local culture. The AIU model is designed to help users speak to national policymakers. The AIU-USA helps American users to speak to their government just as an AIU-Chad would help Chadians speak to theirs. Ideally, every country would have its own AIU as an expression of the sentiments of local Internet users on Internet policy.

Q: How does the AIU differ from other membership organizations?

A: We often compare the AIU to the AAA and the AARP. These organizations, like the AIU provide education and services to their membership as well as advocate on their behalf. The key difference in our model is that the policy positions of the AIU are not determined by its Board or its administrative staff. The membership votes on current policy questions and advances winning positions.

Q: People have many different ideas about Internet policy; how does the AIU account for this?

A: The AIU uses a minority report system to enable strong minority positions to be heard. For instance, if a second place policy position gains at least 33% of the vote, then the AIU will also advance that position as well, even if it contradicts the winning position. It’s perfectly OK and in some cases expected that Internet users will be divided on contentious policy questions.

Q: If the Board and the staff don’t make policy, how does the AIU make policy?

A: You do. Members who vote for majority and minority positions are invited to take part in the policymaking discussion that drafts the AIU’s policy. We recognize that not all members will want to get this involved but, for those who do, the staff and the Board will act as expert advisors to shepherd and steward the policy positions into a form suitable for government submission.

Q: Do the Board and staff have any other policy role?

A: The Board checks the policies issued by the majority and minority working groups and does one of three things. First, they can adopt it as AIU policy and direct the staff to begin dissemination. Second, they can return it to the policy drafting groups with specific suggestions and corrections. This is a safeguard to insure that the implications of a policy position are fully addressed. Third, the Board can provide cause and veto a policy. In this case the membership can override the veto with a 2/3 vote in which case it becomes policy. A Board veto is intended to be used only if it is clear that the vote or policy drafting process has been compromised.

Welcome!

Welcome!

Hello everyone and thank you for visiting the Association of Internet Users (AIU), a start-up membership organization focused on education, service, and advocacy by and for Internet users. We're presently in the process of building the organization and taking stock of what we all bring to the table. I encourage all of you to sign up for our mailing list or as a founding volunteer (and receive a slack invite). You can also find us elsewhere:

Facebook

LinkedIn Company

LinkedIn Group

Twitter

As with any organization in its early stages, we're always interested in growing our membership and your recommendations, likes, shares, retweets are important to get the word out. We are an open, inclusive organization with transparency at our core. We're seeking to be the public voice for US Internet users but to do that we need people to start talking. That's what we're here for.

An Invitation to Make a Difference in your Internet

Hi everyone,

I invite the community to get involved in a new project: the Association of Internet Users

The Vision – what does success looks like?

Who?

Membership is open to all Internet users; there is no organizational membership.

·       67% of the 315M people in the U.S. hold drivers licenses and 17% are AAA members

·       34% of the U.S. population are senior citizens and 11% are AARP members

·       29% of the U.S. population are gun owners and 1% are NRA members

·       85% of the U.S. population use the Internet and 0% are AIU members

If the AIU conservatively aims for a 5% membership among Internet users, it outstrips all of these organization barring the AAA, which it rivals.

The AIU is focused on Internet policy in the United States but this national model can be replicated in other countries.

How?

·       The AIU will support a feature rich website with many ways to communicate and discuss issues of concern.

·       The AIU will organize regular local meetups so members and the curious can get together and exchange ideas.

·       The AIU will cultivate relationships with the private sector, academia, the technical community, and other non-profits who will provide expertise to support the AIU's educational mission.

What?

Services

·       The AIU through partnerships with well-known Internet companies will offer member discounts. Members will likely receive discounts on software, hardware, tech support, classes, ecommerce, and special member offers.

Education

·       The AIU's educational mission to educate users on Internet policy will be occur through discussions, AMAs, face to face meetups. The Internet policy can be complicated but it's not beyond explanation. 

·       The AIU organizes issues around four areas: access, association, expression, and sharing and each is dependent upon the previous areas. Online expression means little to those without access or who lack the ability to connect to those they want to connect to. These four categories neatly encompass the issues of the day such as network neutrality and file sharing, for instance.

·       The AIU will connect interested members interested in global Internet governance to national and international and organizations such as the IGF, ICANN, and ISOC.

Advocacy

·       Unlike the AAA, AARP, and the NRA, the AIU’s policy advocacy will be solely directed by the membership. 

o   Members will advance policy initiatives through online voting after discussion and debate on an issue.

o   Voters who supported the majority position will work with staff and the Board to craft a polished position document. The draft will be the work of the membership with staff taking an editorial role.

o   Positions receiving at least 33% of the vote but not winning will also be crafted in the same way into a minority report. The membership can therefore advance contradictory positions on the same issue.

o   The drafting teams submit final positions to the Board and AIU administration which may

§  Veto the membership's recommendation with a 2/3rds vote. The membership may similarly override the Board with a 2/3rds vote of their own. 

§  Refer a position back to the drafting team for revision to address an important but overlooked issue.

§  Adopt the position.

o   The Board is unable to initiate a policy position. 

·       Policy positions will then be advanced as official advocacy positions of the AIU.

·       Looking to the future, the AIU will be joined by a sister organization whose sole purpose is advancing the AIU's adopted positions through advocacy and lobbying. 

Why – what’s the reason for choosing to do this?

Quite simply, it needs to get done and no one else is doing it. In recent years we’ve had public reactions over SOPA/PIPA and network neutrality. In one case, the public was led by Google and the Internet industry as well as advocacy organizations, and in the other by John Oliver and the media. The time is now for a truly bottom-up advocacy organization with organic leadership to tell government what Internet users want. It’s just that simple.

Now – or how do we get there?

·       Incorporation into a nonprofit 501c3 organization

·       Gathering of human resources

o   Volunteers who want to help and who have skills and knowledge

·       Gathering of financial resources

o   Grant applications

o   Development

·       Gathering material resources

o   Access to the nonprofit resources available from the private sector

·       Assessment of resources

·       Discussion among interested volunteers about available strategies to get from startup to national organization

·       Form implementation strategy with knowledge of available resources

·       Execute the strategy

Why you?

Because by reading this far, you care about the Internet.

What now?

Share this. Like this. Retweet this. Go to the Association of Internet Users and volunteer. Let me know what you want to do and how you’d like to be involved. Alternately email me directly at jlaprise@gmail.com.

The Online Speak: The Association of Internet Users

Over the last five years, Internet users have been increasingly vocal about Internet policy. In 2011, the SOPA/PIPA debate and ensuing Internet blackout led by major Internet companies such as Google halted Congressional action. In 2015, the FCC adopted network neutrality policy in part due to public comment. This time, comedian and satirist John Oliver took the lead with a scathing commentary. Clearly, Internet users are interested in Internet policy and influence policymakers. Rather than taking the lead of business and the media, the AIU offers a user led and driven Internet policy process that voices user concerns. 

AIU empowers users through education and advocacy on four key Internet freedoms:

· Access: the freedom to get online including smartphone, tablet, or computer access; broadband internet access, and basic Internet and technology literacy.

· Association: the freedom to choose to connect and communicate or not with other users

· Expression: the freedom to speak or make online

· Sharing: the freedom to choose how information about you or your expression is held or used by others

Internet users have many ideas about these freedoms and the AIU provides a public platform for discussion and debate. Regular member polling on Internet issues establishes the AIU’s policy positions. Like Internet users, the AIU sometimes expresses contradictory positions by issuing minority reports. All AIU positions are developed and written by members.

The AIU’s website is working towards providing a public square for interested parties to discuss and learn about the Internet issues of the day. As an educational organization, the AIU provides advice and help to users navigating the Internet. As new issues in Internet policy arise and adoption continues to grow, the AIU will change as well and continue to provide you with a place where your views can be conveyed to policymakers. 

The AIU is an idea whose time is now but non-profit organizations don’t happen without planning and execution. We welcome and encourage your participation in this new venue for advancing the policies you want about the technology that has become a central feature of our daily lives.