October 27, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

U.N. summit revives concerns about Net control

A long-simmering dispute over whether the U.S. government has too much control over the Internet's underpinnings will heat up again next week at a United Nations summit in Greece.

Starting this weekend, about 1,200 diplomats and technology ministers will gather at a hotel in the outskirts of Athens to resume a debate that has often pitted the Bush administration and a handful of its Western allies against Brazil, India, China and African countries.

Officially, the inaugural meeting of the United Nations' Internet Governance Forum is designed to explore topics like free speech, security, spam and multilingualism.

But the diplomatic subtext is more pointed: Does the U.S. government have too much influence over how Internet addresses are allocated and domain names are assigned? Are the changes in the relationship with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, announced by the U.S. Commerce Department a few weeks ago, sufficient to allay international concerns? (Click here for PDF.)

The European Commission thinks they are. "I welcome the U.S. government's declared intention to grant more autonomy to ICANN," Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, said on Oct. 2. "With our advice, we will contribute to this transition to ensure that it takes place transparently, reflecting the interests of industry and civil society alike."

So does the venerable Internet Society, which called it a "constructive step in the direction of private sector management" of the domain name system. (ICANN operates some Internet address and domain name functions under an agreement with the U.S. government.)

But a subsequent analysis by the Internet Governance Project, a group of largely U.S. academics, concludes that not much has changed. The analysis says: "The new agreement does not substantially reduce the level of U.S. government control."

That's likely to draw the ire of third-world nations, which spent much of their alloted time at an previous summit in Tunisia last year attacking what they described as unfair dominance of the Internet by the United States, which gave birth to it decades ago. An additional irritant has been the Bush administration's objection to a .xxx adult domain--an objection that ended with ICANN reversing itself and rejecting the proposal.

During the Tunisia summit, nations like Cuba, Iran and Zimbabwe blasted the United States for supporting free speech on the Internet--and called for more regulations under the aegis of the United Nations. "Those who have supported nihilistic and disorderly freedom of expression are beginning to see the fruits" of their efforts, said Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, whom Amnesty International accuses of using police to torture dissidents.

See more CNET content tagged:
summit, U.N., Zimbabwe, domain name, Bush Administration

7 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Our government paid for it....its ours.
I don't understand why these third world nations (or any nation) complain about ICANN and "the control of the US government" We (the US) created the internet, we paid for it through private expenditure and lots of government grants (which ultimately means tax payer money). We gave every country their own TLD they can control and do what they want with, but we didn't have to.

Yes the internet has evolved into a global network, with huge growth in Asia and elsewhere. That does not erase history, its still ours.

No one told China or India or Cuba for that matter they can't build their own internet and then they can stifle all the free speech (China and Cuba) they want. They are like guest's who come for dinner and want to take the pots and pans home with them.

As for the UN controlling the internet, I don't think that's a good idea either. Not that they are not a valuable organization. I just shudder at the thought of the regulations and taxes they would levy on it to "maintain it" (as demonstrated by their stellar book keeping).

In short, we made, we let you use, if you don't like it by all means build your own network and block the internet, because that will greatly benefit your people...won't it.
Posted by LarryLo (164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They made some investment too
Those countries that are complaining made their own investment in Internet Infrastructure. They have purchased computers. They have their own servers and lines traversing their nations.

What's to stop China from separating from the one thing that hold the internet togther--ICANN?

Not a whole lot.
Posted by airwalkery2k (117 comments )
Link Flag
...NET CONTROL
I am extremely concerned about the US giving up its power/control of ICANN and the Internet for many reasons. But also because I own a quite a few URLs and I am afraid of foreign 3rd world governments and foreign nationals attempting and succeeding in 'stealing' names.

If and when that should happen, having to fight a foreign radical entity (radical because they hate the US) to get back what is rightfully yours will be a headache unlike any other.

Large companies with large bank accounts could fight that and win but the smaller guys will lose! I don't know if my concerns are 'righteous' at this time but I do NOT trust foreigners regarding this issue or the United Nations!!!! And yes, I agree with the last post, we had a huge part of its development. Letting freak nations like IRAN, CUBA and CHINA (among others) have an increased role and control will ultimately be a huge mistake!
Posted by avid reader (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well...
Since the US started the net, the US supported the net more than anyone else. Since the US did most of the work to make the net what it is for the rest of the world, we should control it.

However, that doesn't mean we should run rough over everyone else. The US is a domacracy and so we should listed to what others are saying and if it doesn't pose a threat and can be done without messing things up then the US should consider doing it.

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well...
Since the US started the net, the US supported the net more than anyone else. Since the US did most of the work to make the net what it is for the rest of the world, we should control it.

However, that doesn't mean we should run rough over everyone else. The US is a democracy and so we should listed to what others are saying and if it doesn't pose a threat and can be done without messing things up then the US should consider doing it.

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.