November 16, 2005
US to keep control of Internet traffic system
By Andy Sullivan and Astrid Wendlandt
TUNIS, Tunisia (Reuters) - The United States will keep
control of the domain-name system that guides online traffic
under an agreement on Wednesday seen as a setback to efforts to
internationalize one of the pillars of the Internet.
Negotiators at the United Nations World Summit on the
Information Society said they had agreed to set up a forum to
discuss "spam" e-mail and other Internet issues and explore
ways to narrow the technology gap between rich and poor
But oversight of the domain-name system will remain with
the United States, a setback for the European Union and other
countries that had pushed for international control of one of
the most important technical aspects of the Internet.
The European Union said in a statement that the agreement
would lead to "further internationalization of Internet
governance, and enhanced intergovernmental cooperation to this
"In the short term, U.S. oversight is not immediately
challenged, but in the long term they are under the obligation
to negotiate with all the states about the future and evolution
of Internet governance," said a member of the EU delegation who
declined to be identified.
The U.S. said the agreement essentially endorses the status
"There's nothing new in this document that wasn't already
out there before," said Ambassador David Gross, the head of the
"We have no concerns that it could morph into something
unsavory," he said about the forum.
The summit was launched two years ago with a focus on
bringing technology to the developing world, but U.S. control
of the domain-name system had become a sticking point for
countries like Iran and Brazil, who argued that it should be
managed by the United Nations or some other global body.
The United States argued that such a body would stifle
innovation with red tape. The EU in recent months had sought to
reach a compromise between the two sides.
"Let me be absolutely clear: the United Nations does not
want to take over, police or otherwise control the Internet,"
said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. "Day-to-day running of
the Internet must be left to technical institutions, not least
to shield it from the heat of day to day politics."
Under the agreement, a California nonprofit body known as
the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or
ICANN, will continue to oversee the system that matches
addresses like "reuters.com" with numerical addresses that
computers can understand.
Individual countries will have greater control over their
own domains, such as China's .cn or France's .fr. Disputes have
arisen on occasion between national governments and the
independent administrators assigned to manage these domains by
Businesses, technical experts and human-rights groups will
be allowed to participate along with governments in the forum,
which will first meet in early 2006.
"Internet governance requires a multi-stakeholder approach.
This is why we have suffered such agonies in our discussions on
Internet governance," said Yoshio Utsumi, who heads the
International Telecommunications Union, the UN organization
that sponsored the summit.
(Additional reporting by Huw Jones in Brussels)