WSIS: Washington demands Internet status quo

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are speaking out against efforts by several countries participating in United Nations-sponsored talks to force the U.S. to relinquish control over key Internet functions.

The most recent critic is Senator Norm Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota. Earlier this week, Coleman submitted a resolution aimed at protecting control of the Internet, in particular the domain name and addressing system, from being transferred to the U.N.

“We cannot stand idly by as some governments seek to make the Internet an instrument of censorship and political suppression,” he said in a statement. “We must stand fast against all attempts to alter the Internet’s nature as a free and open global system.”

Coleman’s resolution (available at: comes in the middle of a feud over Internet governance among delegates preparing for the second phase of the U.N.-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, Tunisia, next month.

In an unexpected move during preparatory talks at the end of September in Geneva, the European Union parted with the U.S. by calling for the creation of a new “forum” and a new “model of international cooperation,” which could radically change if not completely override ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the U.S.-led group that currently manages crucial Internet infrastructure such as domain names, root servers and IP (Internet Protocol) addresses.

Previously, the E.U. was aligned with the U.S. in supporting the status quo, which essentially meant keeping ICANN as the body in charge of managing the Internet. With its latest move, the European government body has joined most other countries in demanding a global body to take over supervision of the Net.

One of the global bodies under consideration is the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an arm of the U.N. and organizer of the Tunis event.

“The Internet is likely to face a grave threat” at the summit next month, Coleman said. “If we fail to respond appropriately, we risk the freedom and enterprise fostered by this informational marvel, and end up sacrificing access to information, privacy, and protection of intellectual property we have all depended on.”

Coleman is not alone in calling for the U.S. to retain control of the Internet. Similar support has already come from senior Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.

On Oct. 5, Democratic and Republican representatives including Joe Barton, John Dingell, Fred Upton and Edward Markey sent a letter to David Gross, U.S. coordinator for international communication and information policy in the U.S. Department of State, and Michael Gallagher, assistant secretary for communication and information in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In their letter, the congressmen said the U.S. should “take no action that would have the potential to adversely impact the effective and efficient operation of the domain name system” and “should maintain its historic role in authorizing changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file.”

The letter is available at this Web site.

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