By AOIFE WHITE, AP Business Writer
A U.N. panel created to recommend how the Internet should be run in
the future has failed to reach consensus but did agree that no single
country should dominate.
The United States stated two weeks ago that it intended to maintain
control over the computers that serve as the Internet's principal
In a report released Thursday, the U.N. panel outlined four possible
options for the future of Internet governance for world leaders to
consider at a November "Information Society" summit.
One option would largely keep the current system intact, with a
U.S.-based non-profit organization, the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers, continuing to handle basic policies over
At the other end, ICANN would be revamped and new international
agencies formed under the auspices of the United Nations.
"In the end it will be up to governments, if at all, to decide if
there will be any change," said Markus Kummer, executive director of
the U.N. Working Group on Internet Governance, which issued the
The 40 members of the panel hailed from around the world and included
representatives from business, academia and government.
World leaders who convened in December 2003 for the U.N. World Summit
on the Information Society in Geneva couldn't agree on a structure for
Some countries were satisfied with the current arrangement, while
others, particularly developing ones, wanted to wrest control from
ICANN and place it with an intergovernmental group, possibly under the
Leaders ducked the issue and directed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan to convene the working group to come up with a proposal for the
second and final phase of the summit, in Tunisia in November.
Though the group could not agree on a single model, it does recommend
the creation of a new global forum for governments, industry and
others to discuss key issues such as spam and cybercrime -- areas not
currently handled by ICANN.
The panel recommended a larger international role for "governance
arrangements," Kummer said, and participants felt no one country
He stressed the sentiment dates back to the Geneva summit and was not
meant as an attack on the United States or a direct response to the
U.S. Department of Commerce statement two weeks ago that it intends
to keep ultimate authority for authorizing changes to the list of
Internet suffixes, such as ".com."
The United States historically has played that role because it funded
much of the Internet's early development.
"The group as a whole recognizes that it is clear the U.S. has played
a beneficial role," Kummer said.
ICANN chief executive Paul Twomey said the report confirmed his
"If the Internet was a postal system, what we ensure is that the
addresses on the letters work," he said. "We don't think we're a
regulator. We think we're a technical co-ordinator."
Twomey said ICANN had a narrow technical coordination role for a
particular layer of the Internet -- specifically domain names and the
numeric Internet Protocol addresses used to identify specific
But ICANN critics believe the organization has drifted beyond its
technical mandate. They have cited ICANN's growing budget and its
involvement in creating procedures for resolving trademark dispute as
Paul Kane, chairman of a Brussels-based coalition of domain name
administrators called the Council of European and National Top-Level
Domain Registries, said the report told ICANN diplomatically that it
needed to narrow its focus.
"Keeping things focused means not having a massive budget, having a
well-defined scope and a well-defined mission," Kane said. "They have
neither. They're not following their original remit."
Others have expressed concerns that ICANN remains too close to the
U.S. government, which gave ICANN its authority in 1998 but retains
Developing countries have been frustrated that Western countries that
got on the Internet first gobbled up most of the available addresses
required for computers to connect, leaving developing nations to share
a limited supply.
And some countries want faster approval of domain names in non-English
characters - China even threatened a few years ago to split the
Internet in two and set up its own naming system for Chinese.
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press.
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