U.S. Struggles to Retain Control of the Internet

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The line in the sand has been drawn, and that line is the Internet. The world wide web has become embroiled in a world wide custody battle over who will control the Internet.

Earlier this year, as other countries’ grumblings became outright cries of indignation, the U.S. asserted its intent to retain control of the Internet. Actually, specifically, to retain control over the master DNS files which serve as the master routing plan for that big switchboard we call the Internet.

That of course only served to fuel the fire, leading to international talks about who should control the Internet being added to the agenda for the next United Nations meeting in Tunisia. In fact, the talks will include proposals which involve the U.N. itself taking control of the Internet.

There are a lot of ways to look at this, and sure, the Internet touches every corner of the globe (why do people always say that? Nobody seems to question that “every corner of a globe” is completely oxymoronic). But, as my colleague Hiawatha Bray at the Boston Globe points out, “imagine a UN member with a lot of clout, and a very low regard for freedom of speech – China, say. ICANN accredits the companies that sell domain names to Internet users like you and me. Suppose a democracy activist wants to register domain names like downwithchina.com. If China had a say in ICANN affairs, it could push to have such domain names prohibited.”

Then there is that little matter of fact that why, yes, the U.S. did in fact invent and create the Internet. In fact, the U.S. created the Internet way back in 1969.

Now Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota has introduced a resolution intended to strengthen the U.S.’s position. Said Coleman, “At the World Summit next month, the Internet is likely to face a grave threat. If we fail to respond appropriately, we risk the freedom and enterprise fostered by this informational marvel, and end up sacrificing access to information, privacy, and protection of intellectual property we have all depended on. This is not a risk I am prepared to take, which is why I initiated action to respond on a Senate level to this danger”

According to Coleman’s office, the resolution is intended to address:

* Preservation of the security and stability of the Internet domain name and addressing system (DNS);
* Recognition of the legitimate interest of governments in managing their own country code top-level domains;
* Support for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as the appropriate technical manager of the Internet DNS;
* Participation in continuing dialogue on Internet governance in multiple existing fora, with continued support for market-based approaches toward, and private sector leadership of, its further evolution.


“Many aspects of running the Internet have profound implications for competition and trade, democratization, and free expression,” added Coleman. “We cannot stand idly by as some governments seek to make the Internet an instrument of censorship and political suppression. We must stand fast against all attempts to alter the Internet’s nature as a free and open global system”

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2 thoughts on “U.S. Struggles to Retain Control of the Internet

  1. But surely a body such as the UN is perfect to take control of the internet in order to maintain issues such worldwide freedom of speech. No single country should be able to impose it’s own thinking and values upon others, so supposing a country such as China DID attempt to prohibit certain domain names, other countries would simply overrule the vote – democracy in action! I wouldn’t want to turn this comment into a US-bashing one, but it could be argued that not everyone in the western world views the US’s recent activities around the world with a kindly eye.

    Apologies if some might find that remark offensive, but as the US created this fantastic resource, why not engender trust and friendship around the globe by assisting an independant body to set up a democratically-controlled internet – ensuring that it remains a tribute to the aims and values of many of the US people.

  2. You guys in the US can keep the Internet.
    I wouldn’t be happy even with the UK looking after it, let alone China.
    And what happens when China’s turn is up? …Afghanistan?

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