March 29, 2005 4:00 AM PST
Newsmaker: The U.N. thinks about tomorrow's cyberspaceSee all Newsmakers
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try to get a compromise. In this meeting we won't make everyone happy.
I understand it may not happen. But if ITU got what it wanted, what would it be?
Zhao: If I could give you my personal views, I would say that if they can charge the U.N. to continue to work on this issue, that would be nice.
ICANN is supposed to be independent of the U.S. government. But when DENIC (DENIC registers Internet domains under the German top level domain .de) executives wanted the contract to run the .net registry, they headed to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress and the Bush administration. Is U.S. government involvement viewed as a problem?
Zhao: To some extent, yes. That is why people are raising this issue as a very important one to be debated at the U.N. and in the (World Summit) process. Some people argued very strongly that ICANN's establishment based in California gives people some worries. This issue should be addressed.
If ITU were to allocate addresses, anybody could have a choice between their national assignment or a regional or international assignment. That would be good for the development of the Internet.
The World Summit is being held in Tunisia, which a Paris-based journalist group has called a "predator of press freedom." Does the choice of Tunisia send a symbolic message?
Zhao: I noted this kind of opinion from a very early stage that the decision was announced to have two phases, in Geneva and Tunis. The media seems to have no problem with the first phase in Geneva but they don't think it's a great choice to have the second phase in Tunisia.
I think finding the right place to host an international event is not an easy job. There were not many volunteers to host the second phase. The media thinks that country is not very transparent and open, and therefore that country is not transparent and open. I don't think so.
When a country promises to host a U.N.-type conference, they have to respect the U.N. rules. The U.N. rules are quite clear: If any journalist comes to join this meeting, and a Tunisian authority tries to impose any sanction--I don't think that would happen.
What changes in Internet governance structures might be necessary?
Zhao: First we have to understand what the problem is today. Then we can perhaps understand what will happen.
One of the most important changes was the early stages, when the Internet started, when ICANN started in 1998. The purpose was to exclude governments (but that didn't work). People realize today that the governments worldwide have to play a role.
People say the Internet flourished because of the absence of government control. I do not agree with this view. I argue that in any country, if the government opposed Internet service, how do you get Internet service? If there are any Internet governance structure changes in the future, I think government rules will be more important and more respected.
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