Monday, July 18, 2005

BBC NEWS | Technology | UN at odds over internet's future

For anyone who has ever watched Jackie Chan: The Animated Series, you might find the next quote funny (or perhaps sadly only the author finds it funny), as Uncle says, "One more thing..."

I've read The Economist take on this and I still don't understand why controlling the naming rights of the net is actually important. I think it might have to do with something we called the goods and services exchange mechanism a.k.a money. Because, while there's much talk about things that the things Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) does not do outside of its relatively 'narrow technical remit', most of the debate has centred around the US control of Icann. After all, there's really no reason why the US can't maintain control of Icann while the UN sets up the equivalent of Tom Clancey's Net Force to police cyberspace threats (not withstanding the likely drift net laws and massive invasion of privacy that is likely to occur).

But apparently there is money to be made from such naming rights, not just the domain names per se (which is really a shorthand for the numbers that these addresses actually are) but the extension i.e. .com or .org or the lastest .xxx. If I'm not wrong the Icann () doesn't parcel out domain names but does so for the extensions.

But the really really important bit to this entire post is what the article does not mention. What the BBC fails to note is that the entire backbone of the Internet (all those servers) are located within the USA itself. So even if CERN did 'invent' the net (according to Dan Brown at any rate), the physical infrastructure is under the territorial and soveriegn jurisdiction of the USA. Which poses a big question of whether any advisory committee of the UN is capable of taking it away from the US in the first place.

I mean if the US does not acquiese to it, what could the UN do? After all, the majority of the participants were pretty much happy with the status quo and are not entirely keen on much change. The opposition is as noted above and by the article, "Others, particularly delegates from developing nations, resent Icann's role and the fact that the US has kept control of it." Tough luck for the opposition to try anything, given their lack of support (if it even gets put forward to the General Assembly) and the current US's administration perchant for unilateralism and desire to keep control of their own soveriegnity as opposed to the UN meddling and interfering in their affairs.

To reiterate, if the desire is to truely govern and handle things that are currently beyond the capabilities and remit of the Icann then by all means the UN should do something about it. There's no reason to conflate this with the much narrower issue of naming rights.



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