The headline in CNN — “Deal averts showdown over Internet control” — was alarming. What kind of deal? Have we really given away the ICANN store? Traded our internet birthright for a mess of UN pottage?
The folks at the Times Online had a different take on the same event: “US set to maintain grip on the web.” That’s a relief!
Apparently CNN was trying to put a brave face on the UN’s essential helplessness at the World Summit on the Internet Society (WSIS), which opened today in Tunisia. According to the Times,
|The United States looks set to maintain its control over the internet after an eleventh-hour deal averted a potential split between America and the rest of the world over the future governance of the web.|
|It had been feared that disagreement between the US, which made clear it would not relinquish its control over the way domain names such as “.com” are assigned, and other countries, which have called for more open control, could have led to the establishment of two competing internet standards.|
That’s just what we need: “more open control,” along with more “war is peace” and “freedom is slavery” and all the other oxymoronic doublespeak, the lingua franca of Big Brother and the UN.
So we dodged a bullet; things will remain the same for a while.
|The three-year deadlock in the talks has centred on Washington’s exclusive oversight of the private body that oversees the key technical and administrative roots of the global network. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), is now expected to have its tender renewed by the US government next summer.|
|“We did not change anything on the role of the US Government with regard to the technical aspects that we were very concerned about,” David Gross, the American team’s lead negotiator, said.|
|“We saw the world’s countries recognising how very important the internet is and how important the growth of the internet is, and no one created a problem that could help retard that growth.”|
|Countries such as Iran and China had sought UN oversight of ICANN or internet governance. The European Union had also called for US powers to be diluted and had called [for] an inter-governmental oversight body to be formed.|
|However, the tentative agreement reached overnight set up two parallel tracks of multilateral talks, including an open-ended process “towards enhanced co-operation” by “relevant international organisations” on oversight and public policy issues. The process will be triggered by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan early next year, but will have no set targets.|
|The other track creates an Internet Governance Forum (IGF) for an initial five-year term to hold talks on all internet issues, including problems such as spam, cyber crime or computer viruses.|
This “deal” looks like a good one to me, playing on the strengths of the parties involved. The United States will continue to do what it has been doing competently so far. The UN will do what it is best at, namely jaw and jaw and jaw and…
|After a final session during which US, Chinese and Iranian diplomats swapped suggestions for new wording, officials applauded efforts to widen the scope of formal discussion to industry and civil society.|
|The IGF, which Greece has offered to host, will also be allowed to “build on the existing structures of internet governance” but has no concrete powers.|
|“The worst has been avoided but we’re not sure that the best is to come in the future. We have left a door open,” a member of the French delegation, Bernard Benhamou, said.|
So even the French — the French, mind you — are relieved that the UN will keep its sticky fingers off the internet for the time being. “The worst has been avoided,” indeed.
I’m certain that the Gang of Fifty Thousand will live to ankle-bite another day, but for now we can relax.
Next up: the FEC. Don’t take off your pajamas just yet.