FYI: Economist on Internet Governance, ICANN, and WGIG
robin at IPJUSTICE.ORG
Mon Jul 11 15:16:15 CEST 2005
Jul 7th 2005
From The Economist print edition
In a pre-emptive strike, America decides to keep control of the internet
AMERICA created the internet. It also controls the key physical
infrastructure that makes it work. For years, some other governments
have wanted more say and have lobbied to put the internet under the
auspices of the United Nations (UN). America's government seemed willing
to give up its governance role, but planned to pass the reins to an
industry self-regulatory group it set up. This plan did not satisfy
those governments that wanted UN oversight.
On June 30th, the Bush administration brought matters to a head by
announcing, unexpectedly, that after all it will retain its authority
over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
This manages the internet's domain-name system of addresses, such as
.com, and the underlying internet protocol numbers. This system—which
runs on computers almost entirely in America—is critical to the smooth
operation of the network. Many governments are apoplectic at what they
see as yet another example of American unilateralism and plan to
denounce it at ICANN's board meeting in Luxembourg on July 11th-15th.
America said it took this step to ensure the internet's “security and
stability”. The main danger, in its view, was that other governments
would muck it up. The policy was surely a pre-emptive strike against
proposals from the UN's Working Group on Internet Governance, due in
mid-July, most of which favour inter-governmental oversight of the
domain-name system, preferably under the UN. “No single government
should have a pre-eminent role in relation to international internet
governance,” says a draft of the report obtained by The Economist.
Among the main supporters of UN oversight are some countries troubled by
the globalising forces unleashed by the internet—such as China, Cuba,
Saudi Arabia and Syria. America decided that the best way to keep the
internet free from sinister political interference was for it to retain
control. That may seem paradoxical, but businesses, at least, seem
delighted. This week, the International Chamber of Commerce issued a
statement urging the International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency,
to keep its hands off the internet.
In theory, there is no reason why ICANN's monopoly on net names should
be forever sacrosanct. Nothing prevents the creation of new naming
systems alongside ICANN-sanctioned domains. Any country that dislikes
American oversight is free to develop an alternative system with
addresses it controls. Maybe that competitive pressure would even keep
the American internet up to scratch.
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