October 20, 2005 6:33 PM PDT

Bush administration opposes U.N. Net control

WASHINGTON--In a sign that traditionally obscure discussions about Internet control have taken on new prominence, President Bush broached the topic in a meeting this week with European Commission President Jos? Barroso.

The high-level meeting, which took place at the White House on Tuesday, comes as the United States is facing a revolt among third-world nations that are demanding reduced American influence over key aspects of the Internet. The European Commission recently threw its support behind one of the reform proposals that's scheduled to be discussed at a United Nations summit in November.

"Obviously we want to find common ground, we want a successful summit, but we're not giving away our principles in order to get there," U.S. Ambassador David Gross, the State Department's coordinator for information policy, said Thursday. Bush discussed the European Commission's stand with Barroso, Gross said without elaborating. The White House did not provide details.

At the heart of this international political spat is the unique influence that the U.S. federal government enjoys over Internet addresses and the master database of top-level domain names--a legacy of the network's governmental origins years ago. The Bush administration recently raised objections to the proposed addition of .xxx as a red-light district for pornographers, for instance, a veto power that no other government is able to wield.

During a series of meetings organized by the United Nations, ministers from dozens of other countries including China and Cuba have raised objections and demanded more influence--a prospect that worries free-speech advocates and business groups who are concerned about more regulation and a more hostile climate for electronic commerce in the future. The CompTIA trade association, for instance, has stressed that it supports a "market-based solutions" approach rather than expanded U.N. control. So has Nominet, which runs the .uk domain.

'What's good for the world'
One reason why businesses are alarmed is the lengthy list of suggestions that have been advanced by nations participating in the U.N. process. Those include new mandates for "consumer protection," the power to tax domain names to pay for "universal access," and folding the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) into a U.N. agency. The United Nations has previously suggested creating an international tax bureaucracy and once floated the idea of taxing e-mail, saying in a report (PDF) that a 1 cent tax on 100 messages would be "negligible."

At Thursday's meeting of the State Department's Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy, officials stressed that the U.S. government is not about to relinquish its influence over a system that has performed well for decades.

"For all of you involved in Internet governance and the model that has been set up, we support it and we believe it's what's good for the world," said Josette Shiner, the State Department's undersecretary for economic, business, and agricultural affairs. "In no way can we imagine a situation in which we will allow what works very well to be undone."

Sometimes the normal diplomatic ground rules should be discarded, Gross said: "We want to be very clear, and not necessarily fuzz things up with diplomatic language that may get us in trouble down the road."

The U.S. position is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have sent Gross a letter urging him not to succumb to international pressure, and a U.S. senator has introduced a nonbinding resolution that would protect the Net from hostile takeover at the summit in Tunisia.

Discussion with other nations and the European Union on the topic has been going on for years, and differences in policy opinions are nothing new, Gross acknowledged. In July, shortly after the Bush administration voiced its unyielding position on how the Internet's so-called root servers and addresses should be managed, a United Nations working group released a report that lobbed a challenge to U.S. dominance.

Then, as Gross tells it, the European Union sprung a last-minute plan proposing a "cooperative model" for multi-governmental control over the Internet at a preparatory meeting for the summit in Geneva earlier this month. "We've explained to them in a variety of ways why we don't think that's appropriate," he said.

27 comments

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I'd Like to Keep My Internet Connection
Alright,
My subject was not perfect. But the idea of the U.N. taking over the internet is insane. I don't feel like paying money for e-mail, nor do I want to pay any tax to an international agency to help other countries. If I want to help those countries I will. The U.N. is not here to collect taxes and there perception that they can push around any government because they have other countries backing them is not right. The U.N. was not created to be a money making venture and to assist countries, but it was a way for countries to keep peace and protect non-U.N. countries. The US did not join the U.N. immediatly because they did not want to take orders (have we joined them yet?) so what makes you think we want to give up control of the largest media and information source?
Posted by ron williams (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
un vs. usa
two large groupings of civil servants who are dedicated to grabbing with both hands to make a stash.
two administrations dedicated to the fact that they are never wrong and are willing to spend billions to prove it.
two governing bodies that are incapable of doing their job no matter what kind of resources they use up.
Posted by mpotter28 (130 comments )
Link Flag
Just say no to the U.N.
It will be a sad day for the Net, if the U.N. and all of those who hate the U.S to take control of the Net.
Because the only speech that will be allowed, will be what is Politically correct and anti-christian.
Posted by (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes.. secularist dogs and satanists will take over ...
BLAH..BLAH..BLAH.

I don't want the UN to take control of the admin of the net
because they couldn't manage a free lunch. But to invoke the
arguement that "non-christians" will take over the net is just
utter ********. Keep your religion in your church and in your
home... and OUT of Government and public affairs. Aren't you
people fond of talking about Heaven and the after life? Well,
work towards that and leave this plane of existance to us... since
it doesn't matter and the afterlife is what really counts.
Posted by aergern (20 comments )
Link Flag
As opposed to now
where only half the speach is anti-christian.

There is no GOD in cyberspace. There should be no god in its governance either. There are plenty more earthbound reasons not to let others take control.
Posted by bkgoddard (5 comments )
Link Flag
Power hungry much?
The whole debate is whether the UN should take control of the Internet's main servers to prevent US senators from controlling something that now belongs to the world. I agree that the Internet was founded in the states but since then there has been input from all nations in the world. While I do not agree with the UN's motivation; "The US can veto a domain, why can't we?", I agree with the concept of a unified international establishment to control the internet.

However I do not believe the UN is that kind of establishment, as they have proven in effective and beaurocratic to a fault countless times. Until a time where an effective multinational foundation can take control of the internet, and not let it be in the hands of beaurocratic politicians, lets just let the US handle it. They have done a very good job until now, but its important that the US realises that their choices affect the world, and that the world is letting them run it. I'm sorry to inform you, but the US is just one country in the world, despite popular belief.
Posted by danny_f (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Neither the UN nor the US
You are right. A UN agency may not be the best place to run the Internet. But the DoC/NTIA is neither.

Some proposal is floating around that would allow ICANN to remain mostly as it is today. It would benefit from a host country agreement stating that the host country will not interfere in the decision process, sort of what the International Red Cross has with Switzerland.

This looks like a pragmatic solutions that would allow all negotiators to go back home and say they did not surrender.
Posted by patrickvw (3 comments )
Link Flag
Greed, Dictatorship, Egocentric
I said this before and I'll say it again. If the US thinks that they're not one other country, then the rest of us should just create our own network which will be governed by the international community. It is a lie to say only the "third world" countries are concerned about this; and why do they keep saying that they are the best to run it? says who? Unfortunately the internet touches everyone's life today and for one country to auto-declare itself the sole controller for it is just pure greed. Anyway, things will still run smoothly without the US controlling things. Companies like Google, Microsoft, etc will just follow if they want but if they don't (of which I doubt) it is fine because they'll be creating opportunities for other companies.
Posted by (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'd like to see that.
I'd really like to see the rest of the world try to by-pass the US by creating their own network with top level domain control in an internatonal agency. It would be pretty entertaining, besides for the sheer technical and infastructure demands it would take, if they can setup their own organization that is effecient then more power to em.

I'm no huge fan of the US government, and I disagree with putting the .xxx domain on hold because of Bush, but well cant win em all but if some international organization took over control, countries would yell about

A) What countries have more power in the organization

B) The ineffeciency or slowness about Y or X

C) Decisions that were made about the governent that they dont agree with.

Anyways its looking pretty likely that the status quo will stay the same and other countries may make a fuss about it but ultimately not much will happen, and really I'd prefer the Devil I Know.
Posted by Madrone (43 comments )
Link Flag
No No NO you don't get it.
First off, the United States government along with professors at US universities created the internet. Why should we lose its control just because other countries want to use it. That is ludacris. If your country wants to control an internet, go make your own! Nobody is stopping you, nobody says you can't. Go make UN Net I am sure it will be very popular.

Second, Did you not read what the UN would like to do to the net. TAX IT. Just what we need, to send taxes to the beaurocratic world nightmare.

Third, Letting other less free countries have a say would be a disaster. You can barely chew gum in Singapore without being caned. What would they do to limit our online rights.
Posted by bkgoddard (5 comments )
Link Flag
Wow, you just discribed the Third World!
Just how many dictatorships are in Africa?
Just how free to express their thoughts, opinions, opposition of their government are the people of China?
Just how many people have lined their pockets via the Iraqi Oil for Food program?
Just how badly is North Korea destroying their own economy so they can thumb their nose at the rest of the world (we call that being egotistcal)? [note: yes mainly the US but there are at least 5 other countries that they are threatening]

Why is the US the best for the Internet? Answer the above and you will see why.

The Internet touches everyone's life today because the US has the knowledge and POWER to ensure that everyone can enjoy that most basic of rights: FREEDOM! It wasn't an "auto-declare" and it's not greed. Greed is what you are seeing from the "third" world and the UN. They want something that they didn't create, build, pay for, or defend. Normally we call that PIRACY ... but the UN calls it business as usual.

Get a clue.
Posted by Far Star (82 comments )
Link Flag
Almost agree
For once, I pretty much agree witht the Bush administration (egad!) I think there does need to be some sort of international oversight for the Internet, if nothing else to normalize a set of rules that could be used to handle spammers, porn sites, fraud, etc. The implementing of a tax is a problem though, I think it would be opening the door to further taxes (such as sales tax) that would be a bane to many legitamite e-business. If such a tax was to be put in place it would have to be limited to outgoing messages (just like snail mail), as I for one would not want to be paying taxes on the emails recieved from spammers. Perhaps if each government set up a jar in their parliment/congress and capital building, then had every politician put in a nickel (or the equivalent) for each lie they told, we would not have to worry about financing such a project (or many others) <grin>
Posted by Old Guy 58 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Whoever wants to rule the world needs to object
I don't know what's worse, the UN controlling the internet or the Bush Administration. You know that saying "the lesser of two evils?" well, in this case, I'd say there isn't one.
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who Controls the Internet, Controls the World
I am a U.S. citizen, and I am well aware of how the USA is seen by other people in the world - rich, powerful, greedy, wasteful, disrespectful.

The Internet is slowly being transformed from its original state into a just another resource ripe for plundering by big business and government.

The power to control the flow of information is the power to control minds.

Yes, we invented it, but it belongs to all people.
I for one hope that this current situation will be the springboard for true international cooperation by the grass roots majority.

The objective should not direct opposition for its own sake, but indirectly as a de-facto system of checks and balances on the power elite.

Whatever the governments can create, the people can appropriate. Whatever the multinational megacorps try to sell us, we can and should use it as we see fit - or not use it at all.
Posted by dkathrens77 (10 comments )
Link Flag
I just want to rule my own world....
my computer... my internet... my view...
Posted by (47 comments )
Link Flag
Ho Hum
We created it, we financed it, we developed it, we maintain it. It's
ours get over it. Want control of the net? Go build your own... oh
thats right, you can't afford to, thats ok use ours, no charge!

I defy anyone to find a country/world body that would have
been/is as open with something like this as the USA has been.

Now **** and sit down. When you use someone elses resource
for free, you have NO right to complain or demand, you can ask
or suggest but questions and suggestions are like a@@holes,
everyone has 'em and we don't wanna see 'em.
Posted by corelogik (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
UN is getting abusrd
Looks like UN is trying to rule the world by infringing soveregin governments right to tax their own people. Such acts are just plain bad. Nor does the UN should have such jurisdistiction over any country. The domain issue, on the other hand, does deserve some discussion. But, the UN taking control of the NET is completely overshadowing the domain issue.
Posted by bcsan379 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Re: Taxes.
According to our constitution, taxes are supposed to be illegal. We are forced to pay them, however, so that the new world order can stay in business.
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Link Flag
UN Control of the Internet
Not only should the UN not have control of the Internet they need to find another place besides the US to headquarter. I propose that they pick the poorest country and move their headquarters there. This would improve the economy of that poor country and when that country was no longer the poorest, move to the new poorest country. Get the UN out of the US!
Posted by maxmitchy (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
The UN
I think we need to get the UN out of this world. It is littered with dictators who want to descend upon people like vulchers at a feeding frenzy and order the media not to cover it.
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Link Flag
Forget about US vs UN for a minute
And ask yourself, as an internet user, do I want a WORLD-WIDE WEB, or do I want multiple competing systems.

As the web develops, with new features & technologies coming along all the time, will they be readibly available to all of the 6 billion people around the world who have internet access, or will they just be available to 300 million Americans. Think about that twice as long, if you own a US based internet company, trying to create a world-wide customer base.

For many years (and still) you couldn't go to another country & use your electrical appliances, because they had a different system - either different voltage or outlet or both. More recently, there is IN-compatibility for TV's, cell phones & DVDs.

How many new technologies are NOT maximising their potential, because of multiple competing systems. I am tired of US elected officials who are unable to negotiate an agreement on a single world-wide standard.

I am a part of the 6 billion people on this planet. I want to be able to "reach out & touch someone", without the problems of negotiating multiple systems - although, as an Integration architect, I welcome the work :-)
Posted by (409 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Publication Date
The publication date is wrong. November 20, 2005? Not yet it is not. It is November 18 or 19 depending on where you are.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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