Should America Give Up Control of the Internet?

Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2005 11:46 am
US retains hold of the internet

The US has won its fight to stay in charge of the internet, despite opposition from many nations.

In an eleventh-hour agreement ahead of a UN internet summit in Tunis, Tunisia, negotiators agreed to leave the US in charge of the net's addressing system.

Instead an international forum will be set up to discuss net issues, although it will not have any binding authority.

The deal clears the way for the summit to focus on how poorer nations can benefit from the digital revolution.

About 10,000 delegates, including world leaders, technology experts and campaigners, are expected at the three-day World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis.

International forum

Disagreements over control of the internet had threatened to overshadow the summit, with countries such as China and Iran pushing for an international body under UN auspices to oversee the net.

The US had stood firm against this, arguing that it would stifle technological advance and increase censorship of the internet by undemocratic regimes.

The Tunis deal leaves the day-to-day management of the net in the hands of the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), which answers to the US government.

Icann will keep its current responsibilities for overseeing domain names and addressing systems, such as country domain suffixes, and managing how net browsers and e-mail programs direct traffic.

The 170 nations taking part in the negotiations agreed on the creation of an Intergovernmental Forum to discuss all internet issues, such as spam, viruses and cyber crime.

"We did not change anything on the role of the US government with regard to the technical aspects that we were very concerned about," said the top US negotiator David Gross after the agreement.
Mr Gross said the forum would not have oversight authority nor would it do "anything that will create any problems for the private sector".

Its first meeting is likely to be held in Athens, Greece, early next year.

Casting a wider net

The agreement on internet governance means that delegates at the Tunis meeting can focus on how far governments have gone in their pledges for an "inclusive information society", set out two years ago at a first summit in Geneva.

Back then, nations pledged to make the net accessible to all by 2015. But worldwide only 14% of the population is online, compared to 62% in the US.
The Geneva summit disappointed many countries after the rich nations failed to back a Digital Solidarity Fund.

The fund, intended to help finance technology projects in developing countries, was formally launched earlier this year.

The voluntary fund has so far only raised $6.4m (£3.68m) in cash and pledges, so the UN will be hoping to encourage more contributions.

Opening the UN summit, Secretary General Kofi Annan said the task now was to make the move from diagnosis to deeds.

"The hurdle here is more political than financial," he said. "The cost of connectivity, computers and mobile telephones can be brought down.

"These bridges to a better life can be universally affordable and accessible. We must summon the will to do it."

One effort which will receive much attention is the non-profit One Laptop Per Child group, set up by Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Labs.

It plans to produce up to 15 million sub-$100 laptops within a year. Professor Negroponte will unveil the prototype at the summit.

There will be hundreds of other projects, events, roundtables, high-level talks and exhibitions at the summit too.

There are other larger social justice issues to be tackled, such as how to ensure freedom of expression and information for everyone on the net, an issue which bloggers will be watching closely.

Ahead of the summit, there have been concerns about freedom of expression in Tunisia, following alleged assaults or harassment of journalists and campaigners on the sidelines of the event.

WSIS takes place in Tunis from 16 to 18 November.
0 Replies
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2005 11:58 am
Scotland. bm
0 Replies
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2005 06:48 pm
It would seem that the amount of legitimate control of the internet is like that of possession in the eyes of the law-- nine tenths, and certainly at least that much in the eyes of practical reality.

Many have subscribed to the belief that because of the internet's global reach and influence it should have some type of international oversight and to some extent this has already been achieved - ICANN possesses board members of varying international citizenships. But others wish more global technical oversight that would include geographical relocation to anywhere but inside the U.S. Many nations such as China, Brazil, Iran and others fear sinister American influence, which has so far been unsuccessful in preventing the infection of many nations with the much feared disease of open and free information interchange. These nations' fears, given the present orgy of global intercourse, now rivals that of the WHO's relative to AIDS. Both are justified, the latter for obvious reasons, and the former remembers the power of the Fax machine in allowing Boris Yeltsin's success due to keeping many abreast of quickly changing events.

CDK has correctly pointed to the fact that such countries, with less desire for spreading correct information and more for domestic control of information dissemination through the internet, already possess such powers. Further, the dreaded fear of these countries spreading disinformation can presently (and may very well) be realized no matter who controls the internet.

I have done some reading on this subject, almost all centered on the WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society) which was originally conceived to improve the lot of developing and less fortunate nations in regards to communication and information technology. This current meeting in Tunis has now become side tracked by this issue and by those who wish to expose Tunisia's human rights and press stifling actions complete with hunger strikes. Thanks to CDK's technical clarification and those articles examined it seems this issue is much ado about, well, very little.

Those on the U.S. side see little need for political committee-like decisions about technical aspects of internet administrations and the need that these must be carried out some where other then inside the U.S. Those for more multilateral control argue that this is needed simply because the U.S. cannot be trusted and its power must be diluted by institutions such as the UN.

Way back I asked CDK:
"But, in the interest of education and given international input into the administration of the internet, what would be "real reasons to give up (its) control"?"

Along with his explanation he rightly countered with his own question:
" Do you have an example of a scenario in which it would cause the harm you are concerned about?"

In other words what would be so bad about the U.S. loosening its control?
This prompted my research and the answer was: nothing really.

But, given a technical definition of what ICANN does, I found neither a compelling reason for America to continue its total control of ICANN nor for further UN, or other talk shops, participation therein. Thus timberlandko's "Dunno how much excitement is warranted." Timber's observation that the internet has taken on a life of its own is well taken but we should remember that this evolutionary hopeful monster, begat of both technology and human culture, had its origins in the U.S. So, in the future, if we revisit this issue we might ask why nations such as China and Iran seem poor incubators for such institutions as the internet and why they seek to fix an internet that is far from being broken.

0 Replies
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2005 11:53 pm
Good post JM, much appreciated.

I have read (though no expert on this) that the work of Tim Berners-Lee in Switzerland allowed the international expansion of the Internet and he was insistent that this be not commerialised and controlled so as to allow for free growth.
The results of this are there for all to see and I think it a wonderful phenomenon.
The point therefore "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" seems particularly apt here.
0 Replies
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2005 11:25 am
McTag, yes given your info on Tim Berners-Lee and the ineternet's creation in the U.S., the spirit involved was that of creating a system that was openly available to all who, in addition to access could also add their own contributions and thereby add to the body of knowledge.

I believe it was iniated by college faculty working with DARPA grants. Because of its military origins, some secrecy was initially involved but academics recognized its value in regards to science and free speach and started their own for inter-university use.

0 Replies
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2005 07:51 pm
0 Replies

Related Topics

YouTube Is Doomed - Discussion by Shapeless
So I just joined Facebook.... - Discussion by DrewDad
Internet disinformation overload - Discussion by rosborne979
Participatory Democracy Online - Discussion by wandeljw
OpenDNS and net neutrality - Question by Butrflynet
Internet Explorer 8? - Question by Pitter
Copyright © 2024 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.04 seconds on 06/17/2024 at 08:37:17