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Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Administering the ‘Net
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:21 am

Via the BBC: US retains hold of the internet

The US has won its fight to stay in charge of the internet, despite opposition from many nations.

In an eleventh-hour agreement ahead of a UN internet summit in Tunis, Tunisia, negotiators
agreed to leave the US in charge of the net’s addressing system.

[…]

The Tunis deal leaves the day-to-day management of the net in the hands of the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), which answers to the US government.

Icann will keep its current responsibilities for overseeing domain names and addressing systems, such as country domain suffixes, and managing how net browsers and e-mail programs direct traffic.

The idea that anyone is “in charge” or has a “hold” on the internet is an interesting one, if not a misguided one. More accurately it would appear that the issue is the administration of internet standards that remains in US hands. Given that it ain’t broke, not fixing it seems to be a very good idea.

And while this sounds laudable on one level, it strikes me as odd on the other, given the lack of many of basic things like sufficient healthy food, potable water and electricity:

One effort which will receive much attention is the non-profit One Laptop Per Child group, set up by Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Labs.

It plans to produce up to 15 million sub-$100 laptops within a year. Professor Negroponte will unveil the prototype at the summit.

Back to the administration of the way the internet works, the BBC has the comments of Paul Twomey, President of ICANN, who notes:

Only in the past three years have diplomats started paying attention to the way the internet is operated.

It is unfortunate, but perhaps understandable, that they have approached it with a “top down” mindset conditioned by earlier heavily regulated industries and political models of addressing international issues.

Central to the discussion is the role of Icann, the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, of which I am president.

Icann coordinates, not controls, the unique identifier system that binds the internet together, including all the domain names and protocol addresses.

Icann works according to the existing internet model of cooperation and collaboration, and encourages all members of the global net community, including the technical community, civil society and governments, to become more involved in its development.

And it has worked well.

Indeed.

He also noted:

So what does Icann do? To use a loose analogy, if the internet were a postal system, the Icann community ensures that the addresses on the envelopes work.

What it does not do is determine what should be in the envelope, deliver the letter or decide who can read it.

Sounds good to me-and one fears that a group of international bureaucrats would be less inclined to adopt such a position.

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