The United States government has rejected a proposal by United Nations members to cede its control of the Internet’s root servers to international governance, an announcement that has increased criticism among developing nations before November’s World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia.
Tunisia joins China, Brazil, Iran, India, Russia, and Saudi Arabia as one of the chief critics of the United States government’s insistence upon maintaining the role of “steward” of the Internet.
Many of these countries, however, are not without their share of criticism in the matter, as many feel their thoughts on the matter are moot until they address their own issues of Internet censorship and tight Web regulations.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is one such organization especially critical of China and Iran, for their history of human rights abuses that have extended to online realms. Recently RSF blasted the UN’s decision to hold the upcoming summit in Tunisia, where freedom of speech and press are limited.
In a statement to the UN, RSF said the decision to host an Internet summit in “a country that imprisons people for using the Internet…is beyond comprehension,” a poignant detail many feel is an excellent example why the UN should not be granted any regulatory control.
This is one of many reasons the United States Department of Commerce has no interest in divesting regulatory control of the 13 root servers the government spent years and copious amounts of money developing. The US government has yet to even cede control to its own Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an organization it created for that purpose in 1998.
Michael D. Gallagher, assistant secretary for communications and information at the Commerce Department, outlined four principles guiding US control over the Internet, the first of which addresses the government’s commitment to ensuring the stability and security of the Web.
Releasing regulatory control of the Internet to an intergovernmental body poses a number of implications the US government is uncomfortable with, one of which may be construed as a decrease in sovereignty, as shifting this control would lessen US strength as a global power.
The main objection, however, as voiced by Gallagher, is an apparent commitment to ensuring that the Internet be driven by the private sector, rather than by governmental influence. That is, unless, that governmental influence is from the government that financed the endeavor to begin with.
But David Gross, the State Dept.’s coordinator for international communications and information policy, has for sealed the issue with a few pointed words.
"We will not agree to the U.N. taking over the management of the Internet," he said Thursday. "Some countries want that. We think that's unacceptable."