The US and the European Union both expressed support for the final terms of a UN agreement on the future of the Internet that is expected to be approved by global heads of state today in Geneva at the World Summit on the Information Society.
Over several months delegates to WSIS, organized by the International Telecommunications Union, created a Declaration of Principals and Plan of Action – together called a kind of Magna Carta for the information society by the EU delegate.
While large parts of the Plan relates to principles of openness and accessibility in the information society, the topic of Internet governance also reared its head, but broad disagreement prevented anything particularly substantive being included.
The final draft of the Plan calls for UN secretary-general Kofi Annan to form a working group, with input from all interested sectors of society, to define Internet governance and to make proposals for action by the 2005 WSIS meeting in Tunis.
US ambassador David Gross on Wednesday said his country was pleased with the final documents’ take on the issue. Internet governance should be a reflection of a multi-stakeholder approach that includes among other things being private-sector led, he said.
The EU’s information society commissioner, Erkki Liikanen, said in a press conference that the Internet is stable and functioning well and suggested that it doesn’t need government intervention on technical matters.
There are public interest issues where government involvement is justified and we must find the right forum for that, Liikanen said, however.
Much of the discussion relating to Internet governance related to the Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers. Proposals expunged from earlier drafts of the Plan called for the ITU to take over ICANN’s functions.
The International Chamber of Commerce held a press conference to remind, or educate, everybody, that ICANN does not govern the Internet. ICC secretary-general Maria Livanos Cattaui said there’s been a lot of confusion about Internet governance.
The first confusion is that there is such a thing as Internet governance. It doesn’t exist, she said. ICANN is not a governance institution, it has one function to do, to make sure that Internet names and numbers work, she said.
Cattaui said she welcomed the compromise plan to form a UN working group to look at what Internet governance is and if and how it can be implemented, but said it is premature to talk about an organization that could take on this role.
This article is based on material originally produced by ComputerWire.