Governments lobby UN for more Internet power

Computerworld New Zealand Online

Some governments have attempted to persuade a United Nations (UN) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU)-sponsored conference to shift control of national Internet domains to government agencies and to let a new or existing inter-governmental body take international control of the Internet.

The New Zealand government, however, is likely to continue supporting the current structure, under ICANN and, locally, InternetNZ.

The proposals, from South American nations and South Africa among others, have thrown the already shaky deliberations of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) into a confusion some participants are calling fatal.

Paul Kane, chairman of Centr, the association of European country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) managers, attended the third preparatory conference (Prepcom 3) of WSIS, in Geneva last month.

“I have now witnessed first hand some of the governments of Europe, Latin America, Africa and China trying to grab control of their ccTLD registries,” he writes in an online country-code domain discussion group.

“In a government-only meeting (he attended) it was clear Brazil –who are leading the charge — Chile, Saudi Arabia, China, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda want to take over regulatory control and management of the Internet. One government delegate went to the microphone and said they did not understand the Internet, nor the (domain-name system) nor IP addressing, but they wanted to set its operating parameters and regulate the industry.”

If the lobby gets its way, the role of inter-governmental coordinator of the whole Internet would seem most logically destined for the lap of the ITU, delegates suggest. Many are uncomfortable with this, seeing the organization as having a telephony perspective and not fully appreciating the very different workings of the Internet.

The New Zealand government sent a delegate, Winston Roberts of the National Library, to Prepcom 3, but he declined to comment last week before he had consulted ministers and other pertinent people.

Computerworld understands, however, that such a move was anticipated and that the last time ministers and other senior New Zealand officials formulated a considered opinion, they found the emerging language of the WSIS meeting on Internet governance unacceptable.

Approached earlier this year on the topic of government Internet control, MED IT specialist Frank March expressed strong support for the present framework, under ICANN.

Neither he, pertinent ministers, nor anyone directly involved with the WSIS discussion gave a definitive on-the-record comment by presstime, but we understand the New Zealand position has not changed.

The full summit is scheduled to take place in Geneva in December. Much of the content of the core documents, a declaration of principles and an action plan, are, however, still in a state of flux.