A UN Controlled Internet
China decries U.S. 'monopolization' of net
Written by Karl Bode
China's ambassador to the United Nations last week lashed out against what it called the U.S. "monopolization" of the internet, and urged the UN to employ a "more rational and just" governance system. The call to move Internet management away from ICANN and into UN jurisdiction has grown louder, a number of countries complaining ICANN operates with an American bias.
Most of these countries want to see Internet governance handled by the 138 year old International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a division of the UN. To aid that migration, the UN recently established a new internet governance group, dedicated toward dealing with spam, cyber-security and other Internet-related issues.
At the first "World Summit on the Information Society", ICANN president Paul Twomey wasn't allowed to attend at least one of the meetings. From outside he told journalists:
"At ICANN, anybody can attend meetings, appeal decisions or go to ombudsmen, and here I am outside a UN meeting room where diplomats most of whom know little about the technical aspects are deciding in a closed forum how 750 million people should reach the Internet. I am not amused."
The Anti-ICANN sentiment in Europe wasn't aided by ICANN's proposal of a new rate structure last summer, which less affluent registrars in many smaller nations believed was unfair. In the past, rates were determined by the number of global top-level domains (gTLDs) a registrar wanted to sell from; ICANN switched to a flat fee structure regardless of size.
To dampen criticism from abroad, last November ICANN released a Strategic Plan (pdf) that outlined their intentions for the next three years. The plan was quickly slammed by many in Europe as more of a one-sided sales pitch than any real effort to bridge what is becoming an increasingly hostile divide.
In Europe's defense, Americans likely aren't objective enough to detect an anti-American bias if one did exist at ICANN. At the same time, Europe can't be shocked when Americans react with hostility when criticized by the Chinese government; their long history of human rights abuses and censorship limit the receptiveness to lectures on political etiquette.
There's also plenty of legitimacy to the concern a UN controlled internet would be a beurocratic nightmare, slowing the decision making process to a crawl.
The next U.N.-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society meeting will be held in Tunis this November. It's there many countries opposed to ICANN hope to solidify their belief that the United Nations is better suited to manage the web.