Whose Internet?

By Robert MacMillan
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 19, 2005; 10:15 AM

They say you can't have it both ways, but what about four ways?

That's how many options a United Nations group came up with for how the Internet should be run.

Here's a quick rundown that we cribbed from the BBC :

  • Create a Global Internet Council with representatives from several countries and "other stakeholders" who replace the United States in its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Marina Del Rey, Calif.-based nonprofit group that runs the online address system.
  • Turn ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee into a forum for official debate on Internet issues.
  •  Wrench control of the system away from the United States and set up an International Internet Council.
  • Create three new groups: one for the address system, one for debate and one for "Internet-related public policy issues."
  • And they wonder why the U.S. government decided to hang on to the thing.

    Now that I've zinged the Working Group on Internet Governance , let me be a little more fair. The group isn't required to come up with a real solution. That's the job of the U.N.'s World Summit on the Information Society , which is expected to adopt one of the recommendations when it meets in Tunis this November.

    The world's been getting along with U.S. control of the Internet since before Al Gore invented it, so why is this happening now?

    The BBC explained: "The one common aspect of all four proposals is the creation of some sort of talking shop that will give governments and others a say in how the Net develops. ... Many of those attending the 2003 WSIS meeting in Geneva were happy with the current system. ... Others, particularly delegates from developing nations, resent ICANN's role and the fact that the U.S. has kept control of it."

    Not only has the U.S. kept control, Assistant Commerce Secretary Michael Gallagher late last month announced that the government is reversing its policy to internationalize oversight of the system that routes our e-mails and other Internet communications.

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