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Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 14:07 GMT
Developing nations want better net access
comp Should the net be shackled?

How to regulate the internet is the task facing representatives from more than 60 countries who have gathered in Paris, France.

The two-day summit is the biggest ever held on the issue, according to France's Conseil Superieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA) which has helped organise the event.

Protesters demanding unfettered freedom for the Internet have promised to demonstrate outside the meeting's location at the headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

But CSA president, Herve Bourges, said that there was wide agreement that some sort of control was needed for the burgeoning technology, but that the tendency was towards industry self-regulation instead of state intervention.

High on the agenda will be issues relating to social and international inequalities in access to the worldwide web. There is a strong movement in some underdeveloped countries to get the industrialised nations to tax their citizens' access to the net. This money would then be used to 'wire' the rest of the world.

'Bit taxes'

A number of proposals have been put forward in the past as to how these "bit taxes" might work. These include charging western users a small fee for sending a certain number of e-mails over the net.

The meeting will also address some of the common questions such as pornography and filtering software, better classification of material on the web to make items easier to find, and measures to improve consumer confidence to boost e-commerce.

The summit opened on the same day as the Millennium Round of talks organised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) began in Seattle, US. The WTO is expected to agree a new round of global trade liberalisation talks in several economic sectors, including that of the internet.

A study released on Monday by a French polling company, Sofres, said that the amount of money to be directed at e-commerce, or on-line shopping, in France is to double over the next six months from 150m to 300m euros (95-190m).

Some 14% of France's estimated six million web surfers have bought something online in the last six months, and 26% said they intended to make an internet purchase in the six months to come. The rise was principally because of the increase in the number of women on-line, the company said.
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See also:
29 Nov 99 |  Business
Tough talk on world trade
23 Jun 99 |  Sci/Tech
Circle of light is Africa's Net gain

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