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How the Net Was Won

The United Nations is debating the future of the Internet now, and the prevailing thought, at least according to this BBC account, is that the world isn’t too happy about the United States’ decision to keep control over much of…
July 18, 2005

The United Nations is debating the future of the Internet now, and the prevailing thought, at least according to this BBC account, is that the world isn’t too happy about the United States’ decision to keep control over much of the backbone of the communications system.

A few weeks back, the United States declared, in a four paragraph post online, that it would continue to oversee many of the computers that keep the Internet up and running.

Considering our current state of affairs with other world leaders and the U.N., it’s not too hard to see how that decision went over. Now, the U.N.’s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) has issued a report with four options for how the Net should be monitored.

1) Create a Global Internet Council that eventually removes ICANN and the U.S. from primary control;
2) No fundamental changes, but make ICANN’s advisory committee more involved;
3) ICANN becomes technical oversight, overall global monitoring taken away from U.S.;
4) Create separate areas for address systems, debate over changes, and policy changes.

None of these are likely to be well received in the United States for two reasons: we don’t like losing control of anything, and we are fearful that, with so much of our technologies networked these days, it would open us up to a massive digital attack.

In my younger days, I think I would have been outraged that the U.S. backed out of its promise to share oversight with the world. Now, however, I don’t see things in only two shades.

Having said that, though, somewhere in my belly, it doesn’t seem right that we are the primary point of ‘control’ over the Internet. It’s too easy to use Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. (FUD) to push through an agenda – and when you begin to walk down that road, you oftentimes find yourself, however inadvertently, on a slippery slope.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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