Government envoys negotiated a rough compromise on Internet governance over the weekend as expected, ahead of the World Summit on the Information Society conference, which kicks off in Geneva tomorrow.
The Summit, organized by the UN and hosted by the International Telecommunications Union, has settled on language for inclusion in its Plan of Action that delays a direct attack on the US’s control of the Internet’s naming and addressing systems.
The Plan will be discussed and endorsed by over 200 world leaders and senior government officials later this week. It contains agreements on how to close the so-called digital divide between the networked haves and have-nots.
Earlier controversial drafts of the Plan contained language seemingly directly aimed at having the ITU take over powers currently held by the Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers, in the disputed belief that they constitute Internet governance.
Nations including China and Brazil backed amendments that would have recommended the ITU to oversee the allocation of domain names and IP addresses, a function currently carried out by ICANN under contract with the US Department of Commerce.
A rival proposal backed by the US specifically endorsed private management of these functions. The language that made it to the final draft of the Plan errs towards the ICANN-knockers, but delays firm action until 2005.
The Plan will call for UN secretary general Kofi Annan to set up a working group on Internet governance that will investigate and make proposals for action, as appropriate, on the governance of Internet by 2005 when the WSIS meets in Tunis.
The working group will have to operate in an open and inclusive process that ensures a mechanism for the full and active participation of governments, the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries, involving relevant intergovernmental and international organizations and forums.
It will have to develop a working definition of Internet governance; identify the public policy issues that are relevant to internet governance; develop a common understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities of governments, existing intergovernmental and international organizations and other forums as well as the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries.
In other words, the clock is now ticking for ICANN to show that it can manage IP addresses and the domain name system in a way that belays the fears of some countries that it is too US-centric and subject to the whims of the US government. Annan’s working group will publish a report in 2005 on the next steps to be taken.
This article is based on material originally produced by ComputerWire.