SIXTH COLUMN

"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

ACTION ALERT: Should We Trust the U.N. or Anyone But the United States to Control the Internet?

War for the World Wide Web

To the present we have enjoyed the freedom of unfettered access to information and opinion as well as the ability to make our view known on any subject to all corners of the connected world. There are powers afoot that wish to limit severely, and in many cases, shut down discussion, dissent, and the dispersion of information. The internet is also an economic pathway that can be taxed. The United Nations and others powers not only wish to control thought and speech, but wish to tap the very possible lucrative fees and taxes that will be imposed on all internet transactions, from reading e-mail to making a purchase, or to categories yet unknown.

The United Nations, rife with scandal on all levels, and other agencies are attempting to force the control of from the inventors' hands to be used for their UNKNOWN purposes. The web remains in control of the U.S....for now.


Less than nine months ago, the Tunisian government blocked Internet access to the opposition Progressive Democratic Party. Nevertheless, this week the United Nations (U.N.) hosted a summit in Tunisia to determine, among other things, how to maintain respect for online freedom of expression.


Apparently oblivious to the deep irony involved with hosting a conference on digital freedom in a country where such freedom is suppressed, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan describes the main goals of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) conference in lofty terms: "The main objective of the World Summit on the Information Society to be held this month in Tunisia is to ensure that poor countries get the full benefits that new information and communication technologies -- including the Internet -- can bring to economic and social development."
 
A major task of the WSIS is to insure that emerging nations get access to information technologies. But a more important matter is on its agenda: Who should govern the Internet?
 
At present, a semi-private entity called Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), under minimal control of the U.S. Commerce Department, manages the assignment of Internet domain names and IP addresses, an important part of the Internet's ability to function. One of the proposals that was discussed ahead of the WSIS conference seeks to transfer that responsibility from ICANN to an organization operating under the aegis of the U.N.  Such a transference has been struck down for now, reported the Washington Times yesterday, but "it's clear that the ultimate goal of the U.N. is still to wrest control of the Internet," John T. Doolittle, California Republican, warned after the November 15th conference.
 
The U.S. has always overseen key aspects of the Internet since its invention and with good reason, since the Internet was primarily developed in America. It was the U.S.-based National Science Foundation that constructed the first wide area network (WAN) using the now standard TCP/IP network protocol, or instruction set, which allows separate computers in different locations to communicate with each other. That innovation was a key factor in the development of the World Wide Web (WWW) which is accessed by all countries today.
 
Though there are numerous infrastructures that comprise the WWW and allow the degree of interoperability that its users enjoy, that interoperability relies heavily on the task of managing and assigning the aforementioned domain names and IP addresses.
 
In the early days of the Internet, domain name and IP address assignation was handled by the U.S. Department of Commerce through the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). In 1998, however, ICANN assumed that responsibility. Throughout those changes and developments, the WWW has worked remarkably well, expanding exponentially with an absolute minimum of U.S. Government interference. Yet, this week in Tunisia, one of the proposals on the table involves the creation of a "Global Internet Council" (GIC) anchored in the United Nations.
 
The U.N. working group offering that proposal includes, among other countries, Cuba, Iran and China. The group says that the GIC would consist of "members from governments with appropriate representation from each region [that] would take over the functions relating to international internet governance currently performed by [ICANN]."
 
It is worth noting that though the GIC is being touted as a way for all nations to have a say in the assignment of domain names and IP addresses, the membership of ICANN already consists of broad international representation.
 
Realistically speaking, were the GIC to become a reality, countries like Cuba, China and Iran, which already heavily regulate and censor their population's Internet access, would be in charge of regulating the flow of information on the WWW to all countries.  And it is Cuba, China, Iran and other information-repressive nations that have been pressing hardest for the U.S. and ICANN to relinquish control of domain name administration. Their efforts have been aided by a reflexively anti-U.S. European Union (EU) endorsement of a second proposal similar to the GIC one.
 
The EU-endorsed proposal is based on a "multilateral arbitration" and "dispute resolution forum." It is interesting to note that since most European telecommunications companies are satisfied with the performance and reliability of the WWW under U.S. oversight of the domain name system, they strongly oppose the EU-sponsored proposal to shift control of that system away from the U.S.


Commentary is possible on some of the internal links of this story.

Read the Rest.

If you value your web access and disagree with fees and taxes and other outrages that could occur, please contact Congress and make your feelings known.

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