Sunday, October 09, 2005

"Internet geopolitics"

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"At a diplomatic conference last month in Geneva to prepare for the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society, taking place in November, vocal critics such as Brazil, China and Iran led the opposition to America's control (of the Internet). On September 28th, the European Union abandoned its support for the current system and proposed a new, governmental approach, leaving America more isolated than ever..........

"The EU proposal, announced by Britain, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, was intended as a compromise between the UN supporters and America. It would create a new organisation to set policies over distributing routing numbers, creating new domains and the like. Because of its role as chair, Britain, usually America's closest ally on internet issues, had to stay neutral and could not beat back calls by Denmark, France, Spain and the Netherlands for greater government influence over the internet. After the announcement, Brazilian and Iranian delegates rushed to congratulate British officials, whose faces dropped when they realised the EU policy was being lauded by America's loudest opponents.

"If ICANN already has a degree of government representation, why is a new organisation needed? Many of the arguments advanced come down to suspicion of America, and fear that ICANN is a tool of American hegemony. But another reason is that, although today the internet's address system identifies digital devices, in future it may be extended to encompass objects (through melding addresses with radio-frequency identification tags), location (via global-positioning satellites) and even individuals.........

"All governments calling for change repeat the mantra that the new system would be a “multi-stakeholder” process that includes industry and civil-society groups.

"However, the disingenuousness of the position was made clear during the meeting last month in Geneva. Some countries demanded that groups representing business and public-interest causes be thrown out of the room when governments drafted documents for the summit in November. In one instance, delegates from China and Brazil actually pounded on tables to drown out a speaker from industry."

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