Friday, November 11, 2005

WSIS Internet showdown in Tunis

Declan McCullagh writes in C|Net News:

The United Nations' World Summit on the Information Society began with a high-minded purpose: to bridge the technological gap between richer and poorer nations. But now the WSIS event, which begins Nov. 16 in Tunisia, has transformed into a week-long debate about who should control key portions of the Internet.

Delegates from nations like Iran, China, and Cuba have been clear in what they want: less control by the U.S. government. Instead, they've suggested creation of some sort of cyberbureaucracy---perhaps under the U.N. International Telecommunication Union.

Those arguments have met with a cold shoulder in Washington. The Bush administration said in no uncertain terms in June that it intended to relinquish the United States' unique influence over domain names and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) that position. But that doesn't advocate relinquishing total control or creation of a U.N. bureaucracy.

If the U.N. prevails in this international political spat, business groups worry that domain name fees would go up and regulations would increase. If no agreement is reached, there's always the possibility of a bifurcated Internet divided by geographical region.

CNET recently spoke with Ambassador of Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs David Gross, who's leading the U.S. delegation to Tunisia. Gross previously was a telecommunications lawyer and a lobbyist for AirTouch Communications (now part of Vodafone).


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