T Nation

Control Of The Internet?


#1

Any thoughts on this summit and control of the internet?

Net control key issue at summit

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The United States is headed for a showdown with much of the rest of the world over control of the Internet but few expect a consensus to emerge from a U.N. summit in Tunisia this week.

The very notion of "Internet governance" may seem an oxymoron to the 875 million users of the global computer network, which has proven stubbornly resistant to the efforts of those who wish to rid it of pornography, "spam" e-mail and other objectionable material.

But the United States, which gave birth to the Internet, maintains control of the system that matches easy-to-remember domain names with numerical addresses that computers can understand.

That worries countries like Brazil and Iran, which have pushed to transfer control to the United Nations or some other international body.

Even the European Union, where much of the business community backs the current system, has taken swipes at the United States.

"We just say this needs to be addressed in a more cooperative way ... under public-policy principles," said one EU official who asked not to be identified.

The issue is expected to dominate the World Summit on the Information Society, which begins Wednesday in Tunis, Tunisia.

Part diplomatic summit, part trade fair, the summit was launched two years ago with a focus on bringing the Internet and other advanced communications to less developed parts of the world.

That remains a hot topic for many of the 17,000 diplomats, human-rights activists and technologists expected to attend.

High-tech heavyweights like Intel Corp. and Alcatel will send top executives to talk up their development programs.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will unveil a $100 laptop computer that can be powered by a hand crank in areas without a reliable supply of electricity.

But progress can't come without legal reform, business groups say. Internet access in the developing world will always remain expensive as long as governments allow their telecommunications monopolies to discourage competition, said Allen Miller, a senior vice president at the Information Technology Association of America.

"For most of these countries that are complaining about it, it's their own regulation and lack of liberalization that's preventing backbone providers from coming in," he said.

Over the past two years tension between the haves and have-nots has shifted from the question of who has access to the Internet to who controls its plumbing.

Diplomats were to meet on Sunday for a final round of negotiations before the summit. They might agree to set up a forum to discuss issues like cyber-crime and spam, and countries might win more direct control over their own top-level domains, such as .nl for the Netherlands and .fr for France.

But the United States has said repeatedly it does not intend to cede control of the domain-name system to a bureaucratic body that could stifle innovation.

"No agreement is preferred to a bad agreement," U.S. Ambassador David Gross said at a recent public meeting.

Many experts say the Internet needs less government involvement, not more.

"When governments talk about imposing their public policies on the Internet, unfortunately they don't typically mean, 'Let's protect human rights, individual rights, let's guarantee the freedom of the Internet,'" said Milton Mueller, a professor at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies.

"They mean, 'Damn it, somebody using the Internet did something I don't like and let's find a way to stop it,'" he said.


#2

It would be stupid for the US to give up control, so I am sure we will.


#3

The US does NOT have control. A private US company does... ICANN. This is a silly squabble between leaders who don't have the slightest clue what they're arguing about. There is no reason the EU could not create it's own domain name servers. The only thing that establishes ICANNs tld system is convention. If the EU set up its own, and it was stable, and it did not conflict with ICANN's, ISPs would probably add the EU servers to their DNS list. Some people need to get a grip.


#4

Nephorm, doesn't this private company have control of domain names at the whim of the US government?


#5

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is an internationally organized, non-profit corporation that has responsibility for Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic (gTLD) and country code (ccTLD) Top-Level Domain name system management, and root server system management functions. These services were originally performed under U.S. Government contract by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and other entities. ICANN now performs the IANA function.


#6

I've heard the term internet "backbone" when referring to the main lines that handle internet traffic. I don't know anything about the subject. Do they still exist and is this the plumbing that the author mentioned?


#7

Things should be left as they are right now.

Creating a UN division will only result in Internet censorship, taxation, and destruction of innovation and research.

The current system is not perfect, but at least you don't get domains pulled out from the root server just because they offend the politics of some country.

Would you like Europe forcing their vague "anti-hate-speech" laws all over the Internet? Would you like China pulling out domain names that have the word freedom on them?

The UN must leave ICANN alone.


#8

Red flag.


#9

Iran,Brazil and the EU can kiss my ass. If there's any subject in which I support American Hegemony, this is it.


#10

Quoted for emphasis.


#11

At any rate, the status quo was apparently preserved for the time being.

Key Excerpt:

The U.S. fought back complaints by a host of nations at a global summit here and retained oversight of the technical underpinnings of the Internet.

At the same time, the U.S. agreed to create a forum to discuss an array of Internet policy issues. The first such forum will be held in Greece during the first half of next year, U.S. officials say.

But even with that agreement, "There is no change in the status quo" regarding the governing of the Internet, David Gross, a member of the U.S. delegation attending the summit, said last night.


#12

LOL Of course the EU (pronounced eeewww!!) wants a piece of the internet.

Quick lothario impression of EU:
"Help! We're becoming more and more irrelevant!! Help!!"

Here's an idea: If you want to have an internet with total control over the content, then build it yourself. Go ahead. Just don't whine to us when you find out how much "L'internette" sucks.

PS How much do you want to bet that the "nameless official" was French? And yes, I have a thing against the French leadership right now. Once bitten, twice shy.


#13

I thought this piece did a great job tearing apart why UN regulation of the Internet would be such an enormous mistake:

http://www.techcentralstation.com/102805E.html

The money quote:

"The work of the WSIS is frequently cast in terms of the United Nations trying to take control of the internet from the United States. But the goals specified by the WSIS Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) describe American control as only one aspect of the problem. The August report of the WGIG simultaneously decries "unilateral control by the United States government" and the fact that the highest levels of the internet "perform their functions today without a formal relationship with any authority". In other words, the real problem in the collective mind of the United Nations is not that the United States controls the internet, but that no one does. The shots at the United States are as much marketing as substance; it is easier to sell any program at the UN by adding generous doses of anti-Americanism.

The United Nations either does not understand or is willfully ignoring the fact that the lack of control of the internet is not a bug -- it's a feature!"


#14

But socialism doesn't work this way. They are entitled to the fruits of someone else's labor and creativity. Don't you get it?


#15

I thought Al Gore controlled the Internet...

Doh!


#16

Wait, I want that job!


#17

I never thought Id say this but...If they dont like the way the internet is being utilized/managed, they can go make their own net


#18

Hedo,

"Backbones" are very high speed lines, unless the meaning has changed recently. You may have a lot of slow, local lines (dialup, for example), that then connect to an Internet Service Provider, who has a slightly faster connection (a group of T1s used to be standard), and those T1s go back to the phone company or whoever else is supplying access to the ISP, and they feed from an even faster lineor pool of lines. And so on and so forth. It would be impossible to dig up the lines and move them to Europe, and once again, the fact that they are "backbones" is simply convention. We have Internet2 in some universities here, there's no reason Europe couldn't make an "Internet EU" or something, which would still feed into the "regular" Internet.

Anyway, to better answer your question, what the EU wants is some sort of control over the name servers. See, each computer directly on the internet (not going through a firewall or NAT router) has an IP address, which is a series of numbers (192.242.42.34, for example). Since humans don't remember thousands of numbers very well, we have a scheme to translate names into numbers. When I type www.mysite.com into my browser, the DNS for my ISP gives me back the IP address, and everything is good. But there have to be "root servers" that the ISPs can use as a reference point, and those are the TLD servers (top level domain). By tradition and convention, ISPs take the root servers' lists as being correct.

Again, this is all just a bunch of posturing on the EU's part. There's no reason for this nonsense.


#19

No - he just invented it.


#20

Just become an academic! The whole point is to cannibalize the original ideas of others rather than developing your own.