Internet must be controlled

DAVID CANTON - For the London Free Press - August 13, 2005 Read this on Canoe

Internet control. It should be no surprise that the Internet requires some sort of co-ordination to make it function.

We take it for granted, but someone has to control how it works. That someone is a U.S.- based non-profit organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). In simple terms, if the Internet was a postal system, ICANN ensures that the addresses on the letters work.

Some are concerned about a U.S.-based organization managing the Internet. Developing countries are concerned with the monopoly of U.S. power regarding Internet governance. They maintain that the Western countries that had earlier Internet access took all of the available addresses required for connection and have left a limited number for developing countries to share.

There have also been concerns about multilingualism of the Internet and the delay in approval of domain names in non-English characters. At one time China, frustrated with the delays, threatened to divide the Internet by creating its own system for naming domains in Chinese.

Others are concerned that some areas such as spam and cybercrime are not handled appropriately.

To address these concerns the United Nations created a panel to recommend how the Internet should be run and controlled in the future. The panel, the Working Group of Internet Governance, recently released its report. It was released two weeks after the U.S. declared they had no intention of giving up control of the main computers that dominate Internet management.

The panel felt no single government should have a pre-eminent role in international Internet governance. It suggested four options.

* Option one would keep ICANN, but change the governmental control by creating the Governmental Internet Council. The Governmental Internet Council would replace the current role of the US government.

* Option two would have no organization overseeing the Internet. There would only be an international forum for the discussion of internet issues.

* Option three would create an International Internet Council that would govern the internet and address all national concerns.

* Option four would start from new, scrapping all of the work done by ICANN and create a World Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers as well as a Global Internet Policy Council.

The issues under discussion are complex, international in scope, and have potential to impact our use of the Internet.

Control over the Internet is a high-level political issue involving hundreds of countries, many with their own unique needs which will likely be resolved between governments -- not commercial registrars or country-code operators.

So will all this affect Canadian use of the Internet? Clyde Beattie, chairperson of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) thinks not. CIRA has and will continue its involvement in this matter.

Beattie comments that there is significant resentment against the U.S. and ICANN by the global country code (addresses that end in country code letters such as .ca) community due to historic distrust. ICANN's real independence from the U.S. government continues to be a subject of discussion and many are not satisfied with ICANN's management of the network.

CIRA feels the U.S. is not likely to entrust the United Nations or other multinational organization to effectively manage the security of the network and/or protect the economic and security interests of the U.S.

Beattie foresees that the U.S. will retain technical control over the root (the basic addressing system) and network for an indefinite period of time while carrying on with governance negotiations with the rest of the world for years to come.