US win battle for internet governance

The US has reached a compromise with those countries – among them the EU – that wanted to limit US control of the servers at the heart of the internet. Until shortly before, any such agreement had been regarded as unlikely.

Just one day before the start of the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia, agreement was found on a paper presented by Sub-Committee A, the body dealing with the Governance of the Internet. If agreed as is expected, the proposal would leave the supervision of domain names and other technical resources unchanged – that is, in the hand of the US. It states: “We recognize that the existing arrangements for Internet governance have worked effectively to make the Internet the highly robust, dynamic and geographically diverse medium that it is today, with the private sector taking the lead in day-to-day operations.” 

In return, a new purely consultative international forum would be established, the purpose of which would be to strengthen governments’ standing on internet policy issues, including the address system. The new body, called the Internet Governance Forum, would become operable before April 2006. It would be convened by the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan and have no power beyond the ability to bring together all the stakeholders in the Internet. 

David A. Gross, coordinator of international communications and information policy in the US State Department, commented: “I didn’t think it was possible. We did not change anything about the role of the U.S. government. It’s very significant.”

The EU has expressed its concerns to the government of Tunisia on the harassment of human rights activists and journalists attending WSIS and reporting about it. Tunisia has been criticised before for its disrespect of basic human rights. 

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