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The real power behind the network lies with the group of 13 organizations which, through a mechanism little-known outside of technical circles, operate the root servers that guide traffic to each one of those top-level domains.
Some root servers, named A through M, are located inside the U.S. at organizations such as VeriSign, NASA Ames, and the U.S. Army Research Lab.
Not all. The M server is operated by the WIDE Project in Tokyo, and the K server is managed by Amsterdam-based RIPE. The F, I and J servers point to many addresses around the world through the anycast protocol, yielding a total of 80 locations in 34 countries.
This process doesn't involve the United Nations or its agencies at all, which is just fine with the root server operators. The U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union, on the other hand, signaled earlier this year that it wouldn't mind taking over the oversight operations.
CNET News.com spoke with RIPE Managing Director Axel Pawlik about the deal reached last week to create a U.N. Internet Governance Forum, and what the root server operators think of it. RIPE is also a regional address registry for Europe, the Middle East and Russia, which means it allocates IPv4 and IPv6 addresses to local businesses and Internet providers.
Q: Was a disaster averted with this deal?
Pawlik: You could put it that way. The potential disaster was that we would have a new government-led oversight body. That's one outlook we didn't cherish very much.
Pawlik: We are fully convinced, speaking for the (regional address registries), that the policy development processes that we have are efficient, work well, and are beneficial for the Internet. And we also see participation by governments throughout the regions. A new body that would govern the Internet from above would obviously be in conflict with the trusted, proven existing processes.
What relationship do you currently have with ICANN?
Pawlik: It's an informal relationship in most cases. Speaking for ourselves, we speak with governments directly. Some of them come to our meetings and take part in our discussions. Some of them observe. We strive to keep them informed. We find that the European governments overall are relatively quiet.
Did you ever have a government official in Europe express worry about U.S. dominance of the Internet?
Pawlik: Well, we know the EU's statement. Overall, I feel that the governments in our service region know fairly well what our relationship is with ICANN and ICANN's relationship with the U.S. government. It's barely any operational involvement between them. (But the U.S. does have special influence) but they don't like that. And I understand that.
Which governments in your service region are most interested in this topic?
Pawlik: We've had close contacts with the U.K., with the Netherlands, because we're based there. We know that the Nordic countries are very well-informed. There is not much concern coming from those governments to our ears. Everybody seems to be fairly happy about the growth of the Internet.
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