Next week in Brazil, a group of 2,000 businessmen, government workers, and concerned citizens will meet to talk about the future of the Internet. Though the forum was supposed to focus on spam, free speech, and cheaper Net access, it appears that there will be a lot of talk about the control that the United States has when it comes to the Internet, particularly the root DNS servers. The first day of the conference will feature a discussion of “critical Internet resources,” though organizers caution that no decisions will be made.
Markus Kummer, the U.N. official who heads the forum’s secretariat, said he has tried to temper expectations, stressing that the Tunis document creating the forum ”clearly states it’s not here to make decisions.”
”I don’t expect the meetings to change the world and come up with some real, major new decision on the re-architecture of this or that,” Kummer said. ”But I expect interesting meetings and interesting discussions (to improve) understanding of how the Internet works and what can be done to make it safer.”
US Internet Control Lead Topic in Rio (New York Times)
Although there is no way to centrally control all of the sites and servers on the Internet, the United States, through the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), does mete out the limited supply of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and also performs other functions that, until 1998, were handled by a single professor in California. The growing worldwide discontent with ICANN could not have been foreseen 31 years ago when Vint Cerf and Ginny Strazisar used a mobile network node known as the “bread truck” (and a precursor to Wi-Fi) to send data over three disparate networks using a new protocol called the Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP.
Washington Battles the World (ForeignAffairs.org)
How a Bread Truck Invented the Internet (The Register)
I can understand the reasoning behind foreign desire for more control of the Internet, but I definitely think that, for the time being, control should remain within our borders. The main argument for moving control to the U.N. uses the telephone as its greatest example. However, one of the main concerns with the Internet is free speech, an ideal that many governments do not hold as dearly as the United States does. The telephone networks allowed communication, true, but the Internet has the ability to provide for a free flow of ideas that cannot be accomplished as readily with a voice telephone call.
Up until less than a decade ago, a single “ponytailed professor” in California handled all of the functions now handled by ICANN. The U.S. Congress has oversight power over the agency, and the ICANN group tasked with international issues and comprised of foreign delegates (Governmental Advisory Committee) has no power whatsoever. Do you think that the current system is the best to guide the development of the Internet, or do you think that the United States should cede control of the Internet to the U.N.?