Internet Root Server Battle UNfolds

Greg Galitzine : Greg Galitzine's VoIP Authority Blog
Greg Galitzine

Internet Root Server Battle UNfolds

I came across an article on The Guardian Unlimited Web site entitled Breaking America’s Grip on the Net, which reminded me of the situation currently unfolding regarding the future of control over the Internet’s root servers. It seems that during a series of preparatory meetings, being held ahead of the World Summit on the Information Society, a group of countries including the likes of Iran, Cuba and China — bastions of freedom all — have seen fit to complain about who controls the Internet.

Apparently at issue is the stated position taken by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) that they would retain indefinite control of the Internet's foundation — its "root servers" — which act as the basic directory for the whole ‘Net.

And so, representatives from Iran, Cuba, and China, together with Brazil and several African states insisted the U.S. give up control.

The U.S. refused.

According to the Guardian article, “the EU took a bold step and proposed two stark changes: a new forum that would decide public policy, and a "cooperation model" comprising governments that would be in overall charge.”

The idea proved popular, and now the world's governments are expected to agree on a deal to award themselves ultimate control. The issue will be brought up at a UN summit of world leaders next month and, according to The Guardian article, “faced with international consensus, there is little the US government can do but acquiesce.”

What does this mean for the future of the Internet? Is it a good thing or bad? Will giving control to a committee made up of a number of international members result in an environment conducive to forward motion? Or will it end up being a boondoggle? An innovation-stifling bureaucracy? How will the change in control over the Internet’s root servers affect human rights in those countries where the government stands opposed to the ideals of free speech? What effects will this have on the ability to conduct business over the Internet? And what about security? What about VoIP?

There are as many questions as there are interested parties, and when one discusses the internet, that list of interested parties is huge. Maybe this will end up being much ado about nothing, but it certainly merits scrutiny.

Elliot Noss, of Tucows describes the situation rather clearly in this article that appeared on ZDnet back in June.

Dana Blankenhorn, writing for Corante, has his own opinions on the matter.

Tayo Ajakaye, writing for THISDAY Online (African Views on Global News) also offers a through overview of the situation.

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is scheduled to take place in Tunis, Tunisia from November 16 to 18.

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