Sat, Nov 17, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Internet conference makes little ground on US control issue


A UN-sponsored Internet conference ended on Thursday with little to show in closing the issue of US control over how people around the world access e-mail and Web sites.

With no concrete recommendations for action, the only certainty going forward is that any resentment about US influence will only grow as more users from the developing world come online, changing the face of the global network.

"I think that there are many Third World countries and developing countries and people from Asia and so on who are pressuring for changes," said Augusto Gadelha Viera, coordinator of the Brazilian Internet steering committee and chairman of a session on emerging issues at the four-day Internet Governance Forum.

At issue is control over Internet domain names, the monikers after the "dot" like "com" and "org" that are crucial for finding Web sites and route e-mail.

The domain name system is now controlled by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a California-based nonprofit over which the US government retains veto power. By controlling the core systems, the US indirectly influences the way much of the world uses the Internet.

The Internet Governance Forum, the result of a compromise world leaders reached two years ago to try to resolve the issue of US control, has no decision-making powers. At most it can use the conference to pressure the US to cede control.

On Thursday, Brazilian officials called for an independent ICANN and sought more concrete recommendations out of the forum -- if not this year, then by the time the last one is held in 2010.

"As we approach the end we're going to have to see what the world wants and perhaps it will be necessary to take more concrete decisions, or if not decisions, recommendations," said Hadil da Rocha Vianna, co-chairman of the forum's advisory group and director of science and technology at Brazil's foreign ministry.

The EU shared Brazil's desire for an independent ICANN, but disagreed over how to achieve it.

"ICANN has to remain independent, that is, controlled by all stakeholders, but these issues won't be resolved by grandstanding but by nitty-gritty work," said Catherine Trautman, a former French culture minister and member of the European Parliament. "But if this is done I believe the problem can be solved."

There is little indication, though, that the US and ICANN plan to cede their roles over domain names anytime soon.

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