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November 17, 2007
Future Darkens for US Control of Internet
A conference sponsored by the United Nations on the internet broke up yesterday with grumbling about US control but no serious proposals on how to change it:
With no concrete recommendations for action, the only certainty going forward is that any resentment about the American influence will only grow as more users from the developing world come online, changing the face of the global network. The real issue is control of domain names and email addresses - a task now handled by ICANN, a non profit American organization. And ICANN is not up to relenquishing its control anytime soon:
''I think that there are many Third World countries and developing countries and people from Asia and so on who are pressuring for changes,'' said Augusto Gadelha Viera, coordinator of the Brazilian Internet steering committee and chairman of a closing session on emerging issues at the four-day Internet Governance Forum.
As the conference drew to a close, Russian representative Konstantin Novoderejhkin called on the United Nations secretary-general to create a working group to develop ''practical steps'' for moving Internet governance ''under the control of the international community.''
Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, who stepped down as ICANN's chairman earlier this month, dismissed the complaints as misguided. This is simple anti-Americanism at work. Can you imagine what the internet would be like being run by the United Nations? Fred Thompson can:
''I think (there are) a small number of countries that are very agitated and almost don't care what the facts are,'' he said. ''It's a very small vocal group bothered by this issue. ICANN has existed for eight years and done a great job with its plans for internationalization.''
ICANN recently elected its first chairman from outside the United States and started tests on domain names entirely in other languages, something many countries have sought to expand Internet usage among those unfamiliar with English.
My hunch is that we’d see the same level of management of the Internet from the U.N. that we’ve seen when it came to peacekeeping operations in Africa. Or its management of Saddam Hussein’s “Oil for Food” program. Or its monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program. I think the US should adopt a variation of the old slogan "You can have my internet when you pry it from my cold, dead, hands."
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if when you look up “fool’s errand” in the dictionary, you find: “Role for United Nations’” as the definition. The notion of surrendering management of the Internet – a global, strategic infrastructure for communications and commerce – to the UN is just a plain dumb idea. We shouldn’t be handing over something that works right to an institution that has difficulty doing anything right.