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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
US rejects changes to net control
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The US is resisting giving over net management to the UN
The US has rejected calls by European Union (EU) officials to give control of the net over to a more representative United Nations (UN) body.

Wrangling over who should essentially be the net police, managing domain names and net traffic routing fairly, has been going on for some time.

The matter is supposed to be discussed at November's World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia.

But at a pre-Summit meeting this week, the US said it would resist the plans.

In the meeting, the European Union (EU) backed proposals that control of the net should be under a more representative body.

"We will not agree to the UN taking over the management of the internet," said Ambassador David Gross, the US coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department.

"Some countries want that. We think that's unacceptable."

Fairer sharing

Currently, the US Commerce Department approves any changes to the internet's core addressing systems, the root zone files, managed by Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).

Last month the UN's Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) published its proposals for reform of the way the net is run, which are to be debated at the Summit.

Governance over the net - the management of its addressing systems and traffic routing - has historically been the role of the US because it largely funded and pushed its early development.

Image of people using the net
Developing nations want the net and its domains shared equally
The US argues that UN proposals would shift the regulatory approach from private sector leadership to government, top-down control.

Icann administers domain name and addressing systems, such as country domain suffixes. It manages how net browsers and e-mail programs direct traffic.

But many countries, particuarly developing nations, have been calling for the US to relinquish control, or at least to come up with a compromise, to ensure the net is managed more equitably.

Many outside the US argue that no one country should have authority over something that plays such a key role in the global economy.

As many developing countries seek to exploit the net for economic and social development, the issue has become more pressing.

The UN's WGIG has suggested four alternatives:

  • Option One - create a UN body known as the Global Internet Council that draws its members from governments and "other stakeholders" and takes over the US oversight role of Icann.

  • Option Two - no changes apart from strengthening Icann's Governmental Advisory Committee to become a forum for official debate on net issues.

  • Option Three - relegate Icann to a narrow technical role and set up an International Internet Council that sits outside the UN. US loses oversight of Icann

  • Option Four - create three new bodies. One to take over from Icann and look after the net's addressing system. One to be a debating chamber for governments, businesses and the public; and one to co-ordinate work on "internet-related public policy issues".

The UN World Summit on the Information Society takes place in Tunis, Tunisia, between 16 and 18 November.


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