The A4AI Discussion: A Summation

Posted on April 5, 2016

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As some of you will know  blogpost(1) which presents a detailed critique of the A4AI (the Alliance for an Affordable Internet) “Best Practices” document; and blogpost(2) which presents a detailed alternative set of “Best Practices” were circulated over the last couple of weeks. 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 150 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 describes itself as “the world’s broadest technology sector coalition” with a variety of very heavy corporate, civil society and US aligned governmental interests participating, so what the A4AI says and does is not trivial.
  2. None of the principals involved in A4AI chose to enter the discussion and specifically to refute any of my contentions concerning the nature and implications of the “Best Practices” document
  3. 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 influence the policies and regulations of the participating LDC’s thus: “A4AI has a laser focus on… regulatory and policy change
  4. The “Best Practices” document in the absence of any referencing would appear to have been produced by the US State Department in conjunction with Google.
  5. The Best Practices document which is the primary focus and objective of the Alliance 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 actions and expressed opinions concerning domestic Internet policy of the Obama administration as for example in the area of community broadband)
  6. The Best Practices document is at its core market fundamentalist/neo-liberal and thus is looking to have LDC’s institute market fundamentalist policies as the fundamental structure for Internet governance, policies and regulations at the national level
  7. Those civil society and not for profit organizations who have signed on to the A4AI (I think it really should be renamed as the Alliance for an American Internet) would appear to have been recruited to provide the Alliance with a veneer of CS legitimacy.  Their continued participation by these CS organizations however, means that they are complicit in the Alliance’s neo-liberal agenda.