lsi on Wed, 16 Nov 2005 01:40:40 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> US heads for internet showdown

[The reason this issue is a big deal is because with centralised 
control, it would be possible for the controlling authority to deny 
or subvert traffic to any domains it wishes.  For example, if the 
Bush Administration legislated to ban the use of federal funds to 
support the activity of pro-choice organisations, perhaps ICANN would 
be forced to drop them from the DNS.  This would make it more 
difficult for internet users world-wide to obtain information on 
abortion.  In a world not so different from our own, ICANN might even 
be forced to redirect traffic to those domains to another domain, 
possibly one displaying the opposite kind of information.

Placing the net under UN control might fix this, but it also might 
break something else.  The fact is that moving control from one place 
to another is just relocating the problem, not fixing it.  The real 
problem is centralised control.  Decentralised control would mean 
there is nothing to argue over, and critically, no way to subvert 
information as in the above example. Opinions on the net vary as to 
the feasibility of a rootless DNS, my take on this is that these are 
computers, and we can reprogram them any way we want.  There is no 
fundamental reason why a rootless DNS cannot exist - there is 
substantial political objection, however, presumably because those in 
power want to stay that way.

See also:

 - Stu]

US heads for internet showdown 
By Clark Boyd 
Technology correspondent in Tunis 

The US is headed for a showdown with much of the rest of the world 
over control of the internet at this week's UN summit in Tunisia. 

Most net users probably do not spend a lot of time worrying about who 
runs the resource they are using, but there is a global battle 
brewing over that very question. 

The internet grew out of US military and academic research, and the 
US government still has certain measures of control over it. 

Other nations, however, are clamouring for a bigger say and are 
pushing for significant changes at the UN's World Summit on the 
Information Society. 

The issue is expected to overshadow the summit, which is intended to 
focus on how to take the internet to less developed parts of the 

Government role 

Most internet users around the world would agree that the internet 
has been functioning, technically, quite well. 

It is not a monolithic entity. In fact, it is comprised of some 
quarter of a million private networks that choose to interconnect 
with each other. 

A California-based non-profit created by the Clinton Administration 
in 1998, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers 
(Icann) is charged with making sure that these networks talk to each 

The organisation says its job is technical, making sure that web 
addresses take surfers to the right site. 

What Icann does not do is "run" or "control" the internet, according 
to Theresa Swinehart, General Manager for Global Partnerships at 

"Actually, nobody runs or controls the internet single-handedly. It 
is multiple parties, multiple businesses, users, and networks 
connecting to this. All these different groups, organizations and 
companies have a responsibility." 

But Icann operates under a memorandum of understanding with the US 
Department of Commerce. To some, that looks like American control of 
the internet. 

"The rest of the world doesn't want to see US hegemony here, in large 
part just for symbolic reasons," says Jonathan Zittrain, Chair in 
Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University. 

"So there's one set of countries, anchored by Iran, Cuba and China, 
that would like to see some process by which governments of the world 
have a much larger hand in controlling the shape of the internet." 

Many African politicians are also asking for "regime change" on the 
internet, and the European Union called in September for a new, 
international body to govern the net. 

US stands firm 

But the Bush administration and many in the US Congress reject the 

Both the US Departments of Commerce and State have reiterated that 
the US will maintain what they call "stewardship" of the internet. 
They contend that the US, working with Icann, is best placed to 
ensure an open, secure and stable online environment. 

And in a recent letter to the Wall Street Journal, Republican Senator 
Norm Coleman wrote: "There is no rational justification for 
politicising internet governance within a United Nations framework." 

That view has plenty of support outside the US. 

"We don't see any advantage in moving toward UN control," says Bill 
Graham, who works on internet governance issues for the Canadian 

"In fact, we're on record as opposing that. We just feel it would be 
bureaucratically heavy and frankly, unnecessary." 

Mr Graham supports a compromise measure, some kind of international 
forum that would have no oversight duties, but would help other 
nations feel like they have more input into how the internet 

At risk 

Some in the anti-US camp are threatening more drastic action. They 
say, if the US won't cede some control, they will create their own 

Michael Geist, who teaches internet law at the University of Ottawa, 
says that a world of multiple "internets" might not be a good thing. 

"What's at risk is the possibility that the communications system of 
the internet that we've come to rely upon, the ability for me to send 
an electronic message anywhere around the world, and similarly access 
websites around the world, and have little doubt that my requests 
will be recognised, is put in some measure of peril by the fact that 
we might have several different internets," he said. 

Few think this will actually happen, but the threat will be there as 
politicians and technocrats from across the globe meet in Tunisia 
from this week. 

Special preparatory meetings to address the internet governance issue 
are under way ahead of the summit's official start on Wednesday. 

"It's a political battle where, I think it was Henry Kissinger who 
once said, 'the fighting is so fierce, precisely because the stakes 
are so small'," says Oxford's Jonathan Zittrain. 

"Almost all of these things are in part the result of what happens 
when you get a bunch of diplomats in a room. 

"They'll find a way to have a grave disagreement, then have a way to 
work it through, and eventually come out with a communiqu=E9, and it 
may not have anything to do with the technically realities of the way 
the internet works." 

It would be better, Professor Zittrain says, for governments to focus 
on the serious internet issues that do need an international 
solution, especially things like spam, phishing, and cyber security. 

Others have called upon leaders to focus their efforts on the 
original intent of the summit to find ways to bring the benefits of 
information and communication technologies to the developing world. 

Clark Boyd is technology correspondent for The World, a BBC World 
Service and WGBH-Boston co-production

Stuart Udall
stuart net -

 * Origin: lsi: revolution through evolution (192:168/0.2)

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