Reding takes on US over internet control

Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding is on the offensive in the dispute with the US about governance of the internet, evoking the spectre of the internet falling apart.

At a preparatory meeting to the World Summit on the Information Society, the United States remained stubborn over keeping control of the servers that control the internet’s domain name system. An EU proposal to internationalise governance of the internet was dismissed by the US diplomat in charge of the negotiations as “unacceptable” and “not a negotiating issue”.

In a recent press briefing in London, Commissioner Reding attacked the United States’ mindset by saying that “[…] there is a problem as many parts of the world don’t like the fact that one country is linked to the organism that technically rules the internet. Many countries would like a multilateral approach. […] The US is absolutely isolated and that is dangerous. […] Imagine the Brazilians or the Chinese doing their own internet. That would be the end of the story. […] I am very much afraid of a fragmented internet if there is no agreement.”

On US criticisms that “the EU’s proposal seems to represent an historic shift in the regulatory approach to the internet from one that is based on private sector leadership to a government, top-down control of the internet”, Commissioner Reding said: “We have no intention to regulate the internet.” She clarified that the EU was not proposing setting up a new global body, but rather thinking of a “model of co-operation”, “a platform where leaders of the world can express their thoughts about the internet”.

The EU-US row over internet governance is expected to come to a head at the World Summit on the Information Society, which will take place in Tunis from 16 to 18 November 2005.

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