New Delhi: India favours a multilateral role in net governance and management, a "transformational shift from the Internet of today to the Equinet of tomorrow".
"The Internet governance should be multilateral, transparent, democratic,and representative, with the participation of governments, private sector, civil society, and international organizations, in their respective roles. This should be one of the foundational principles of Internet governance," the external affairs ministry says in its initial submission to the April 23-24 Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, also referred as NETmundial, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The proposal for a decentralised Internet is significant in view of Edward Snowden's Wikileaks revelations of mass surveillance in recent months.
"The structures that manage and regulate the core Internet resources need to be internationalized, and made representative and democratic. The governance of the Internet should also be sensitive to the cultures and national interests of all nations.
"The mechanism for governance of the Internet should therefore be transparent and should address all related issues. The Internet must be owned by the global community for mutual benefit and be rendered impervious to possible manipulation or misuse by any particular stake holder, whether state or non-state," the ministry note says.
NETmundial will see representatives from nearly 180 countries participating to debate the future of Internet.
Subimal Bhattacharjee, one of the two members from India in the Research Advisory Network under the Global Commission on Internet Governance, told IANS: "The NETmundial meeting in Brazil next week is interesting as most of the stakeholders will get to discuss internet governance issues after the US announcement and it remains to be seen what will be the direction that these complex deliberations take."
The US announced last month of its intent to relinquish control of a vital part of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) - the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).
"Many nations still think that a multilateral role might be more suitable than a multistakeholder approach and two years back India had proposed a 50-nation 'Committee of Internet Related Policies' (CIRP) for global internet governance," Bhattacharjee added.
The concept of Equinet was first floated by Communications Minister Kapil Sibal in 2012 at the Internet Governance Forum in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Dr. Govind, chief executive officer, National Internet Exchange of India, is hopeful that Equinet is achievable. "Equinet is a concept of the Internet as a powerful medium benefiting people across the spectrum. It is all the more significant for India as we have 220 million Internet users, standing third globally after China and the US."
"Moreover, by the year-end India's number of Internet users are expected to surpass that of the US. The word Equinet means an equitable Internet which plays the role of an equaliser in the society and not limited only to the privileged people."
He said the role of government in Internet management is important as far as policy, security and privacy of the cyber space is concerned, but the roles of the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders are no less. "Internet needs to be managed in a more collaborative, cooperative, consultative and consensual manner."
Talking about the global strategy of renaming Internet as Equinet, he said: "Globally the US has the largest control over the management of the Internet, which is understandable since everything about Internet started there. Developing countries have still not much say over the global management of the Internet. But it is important that the Internet management be more decentralised and globalised so that the developing countries have more participation, have a say in the management where their consent be taken as well."
The ministry note said: "A mechanism for accountability should be put in place in respect of crimes committed in cyberspace, such that the Internet is a free and secure space for universal benefaction. A 'new cyber jurisprudence' needs to be evolved to deal with cyber crime, without being limited by political boundaries and cyber-justice can be delivered in near real time."
But other experts doubt the possibility of an Equinet or equalising the Internet globally.
Sivasubramanian Muthusamy, president, Internet Society India, Chennai, who is also a participant in the NETmundial, told IANS that the idea of Equinet is not achievable.
"Totally wrong idea. Internet provides a level playing field already. It is designed and operated to be universally accessible, free and open. Internet as it is operated today offers the greatest hope for developing countries to access global markets and prosper."
"The idea of proposing to rename the Internet as Equinet has a political motive, that would pave way for telecom companies to have a bigger role to bring in harmful commercial models that would destabilize the open architecture of the Internet. If India is considering such a proposal, it would be severely criticized. The proposal does not make any sense. It is wrong advice or misplaced input that must have prompted the government of India to think of such a strange idea," he said.