Michael Gurstein on Wed, 6 Apr 2016 19:01:33 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> In Plain Sight: The Alliance for an Affordable Internet: Discussion Summation

The below has been adapted from the original blogpost (with very extensive
links/referencing) at: 


As some of you will know I recently published a blogpost which presents a
detailed critique of the A4AI (the Alliance for an Affordable Internet)
"Best Practices" document; and a second blogpost which presents a detailed
alternative set of "Best Practices". These have generated quite a lengthy
and sometimes heated discussion on some broader e-lists of interest to the
Internet policy community (specifically governance@lists.igcaucus.org, the
e-list for civil society in Internet Governance; and
internetpolicy@elists.isoc.org , the policy e-list for the Internet Society
(ISOC). Overall the discussion has generated some 200 or so individual posts
with some continuing to be posted.

I'm biased of course, but as the discussion progressed and as it forced me
to go deeper into the background for the Alliance a few things became very,
even startlingly, clear:

   1. The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI)  describes itself as "the
world's broadest technology sector coalition" with a variety of very heavy
corporate (Google, Facebook, Intel etc.), civil society (WWF, ISOC) and US
aligned governmental interests (US State Department, US AID, UK AID etc.)
participating.  So what the A4AI says and does is not trivial.

   2. While the A4AI appears to be doing useful research and advocacy work
on the ground (their annual Affordability reports) the explicitly stated
fundamental objective and priority of the Alliance is to rework via its
"Best Practices" document, the policies and regulations of the participating
Less Developed Countries (LDCs) thus: "A4AI has a laser focus on. regulatory
and policy change".

   3.  The "Best Practices" document would appear to have been produced by
Hillary Clinton's US State Department in conjunction with Google and bears
little or no real relationship to actual best practices (for enhancing
Internet access particularly for the un/underserved) as observed by
experienced practitioners in the area.

   4. The "Best Practices" document is at its core an ideological, market
fundamentalist/neo-liberal document and is looking to have LDC's implement
market fundamentalist policies as the fundamental structure for Internet
governance, policies and regulations at the national level including fully
open markets, prohibition of government involvement to support broader
access, full (international) corporate involvement in deployment of
Universal Services Funds (often in the $100's of millions of dollars--huge
sums for LDCs) among others.

   5. The "Best Practices" document is meant to bring LDC's into alignment
with the preferred policies of the USG and its corporate allies irrespective
of the fact that it is in direct contradiction with the current domestic
actions and policy directions of most Developed Country jurisdictions (USA,
Canada, Australia) which recognize the necessary role of governments in
supporting the provision of service to the un/underserved.   

  6. The continued participation by the various CS organizations among
others (Worldwide Web Foundation, Internet Society, APC etc.) means that
they are complicit in the A4AI's (I think it really should be renamed as the
Alliance for an American Internet) neo-liberal agenda for remaking the
policy and regulatory framework of LDC's.

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