The Associated Press Wednesday, November 16, 2005; 11:03 PM
TUNIS, Tunisia -- Despite a late-night agreement averting a global showdown over continued U.S. control of the Internet's addressing system, many delegates to a U.N. technology summit did not believe the Americans emerged victorious.
Representatives of a number of countries remained adamant that U.S. control must be tempered if the Internet is to fully reach its potential. And even traditional allies of Washington considered it to have opened the door to the possibility of more shared governance.
From left, Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union Toshio Utsumi of Japan, General-Secretary of the United Nation Kofi Annan and President of Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, listening to the speeches of the opening session of the World Summit on the Information Society at the convention center in Kram, 10 kms(6 mls) north of Tunis, Tunisia, Wednesday Nov. 16, 2005. Negotiators from more than 100 countries agreed late Tuesday to leave the United States in charge of the Internet's addressing system, averting a U.S.-EU showdown at this week's U.N. technology summit. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) (Michel Euler - AP)
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe spoke for the more radical opposition to U.S. control, saying Washington and its allies cannot continue to "insist on being world policemen on the management of the Internet."
"Why should our diverse world be beholden to an American company?," he told more than 10,000 government, business and other delegates as the three-day U.N. World Summit on the Information Society opened Wednesday.
A quasi-independent group, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, manages the worldwide network's main addressing computers on the U.S. government's behalf.
Mugabe's remarks signaled that, despite the U.S. success in winning over a broad group of nations including the European Union bloc, underlying complaints about American hegemony in Internet control still linger.
In an extreme case, complaints left unchecked could prompt dissatisfied countries to create their own addressing system, splintering the Internet such that two people typing in the same Web address may reach different sites, depending on where they live.
Questions about the Internet's plumbing have overshadowed the summit's original intent: to address ways to expand communications technologies to poorer parts of the world.
Delegates from more than 100 countries wrapped up nearly three days of heavy talks late Tuesday by agreeing to leave the United States with oversight of the computers that act as the Internet's master directories so Web browsers and e-mail programs can find other computers.
David Gross, the U.S. State Department's top official on Internet policy, said he was thrilled by the last-minute deal, saying it "reaffirmed the role of technology to the world and preserved the unique role of the U.S."
Publicly, officials were positive on the agreement, noting that it brought together government, business and civil leaders to work out issues surrounding Internet governance.
Privately, many delegates fumed, noting that the secretive talks, which had been expected, seemed to take away from the focus of the summit. Many complained that the United States was grandstanding.