Monday, July 04, 2005

Are we heading for a split in Internet?

Recently members of the Dutch delegation to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis as well as other people involved in the WSIS met. Looking over the agenda for WSIS, two items passed: internet governance and the financing mechanisms for ICT projects in developing countries. For the issues of financing mechanisms solutions have been discussed in the preparatory meeting Prepcom 2. In the meantime a Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF), outside the UN framework, has been created open for interested stakeholders and created for voluntary contributions. DSF is an addition to the existing financing mechanisms. Personally I am wondering who will come of the fund. I am not such a believer in this type of constructions. So far the cities of Lyon and Geneva as well as the Basque government have expressed support. But when will Bill Gates come in with a bag full of money?

The other item was Internet governance. This is a hotly debated issue. Internet is a spin-off of military network ARPA and later the National Science Foundation (NSF). So it has been financed in the past by the USA government. Now the governing body is ICANN, incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in California and by Memory of Understanding (MoU) linked to the US government.

In the first WSIS conference the issue of internet governance came up and was not solved. The European Commission had indicated that it would like to see the internet governance under control of a supra-national body like the UN. Now that Tunis is nearing the EU has published a communication Towards a Global Partnership in the Information Society. In the communication the EU expresses its wish for a new cooperation model. This model should not replace the existing mechanisms and institutions, but it should introduce a new public-private cooperation model to the sustainable stability and robustness of the Internet by addressing appropriately public policy issues related to key aspects of Internet governance. So far this was also the point of view by the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG). A report from WGIG was due to be published on July1st, 2005; however no mention is made on it on the site. On July 18th, 2005 the report would be presented to the public.

Is something going wrong? It looks that the US is interfering in the discussion. Despite the nice words on the ICANN and the MoU between the ICANN and the US government, it has become clear that the US government like to keep control over ICANN and the basic 13 root domains of Internet. This sparks of course the speculation that internet will be split in national domains, which might be gatewaying with the US dominated internet.

So the march through the institutions will continue. July 18 will be an important date as the WGIG report should be presented. Up to August 15, there should be time for comments. From September 19-30 Prepcom 3 will meet in Geneva and discuss the WGIG report and the EU memorandum. However, the question will be whether the US government will change her position.

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