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UN Report Offers Proposals for Future of Internet


A U.N. panel has issued a set of rival proposals about how the Internet should be run in the future. The report by the 40-member panel will be considered at a World Summit on the Information Society, to be held in Tunis in November.

The U.N. panel has offered four different proposals on how the Internet might be run in the future. The members were unable to reach consensus on any one of them.

The panel says no single government should have a pre-eminent role in relation to international Internet governance. The declaration runs counter to United States policy which is to continue its control of the basic operating mechanisms of the Internet. Nitin Desai is the Chairman of the U.N. Working Group on Internet Governance, which issued the report.

"We need a system of global cooperation on issues which are of concern - cyber-security, authentication," he said. "For instance, I do not want my identity stolen, have someone use my identity card or identity. Again, you cannot do this alone. Because of the way this medium is, you need a system where there is cooperation across countries. These are issues which basically concern an individual. These are all issues basically of Internet governance."

One recommendation is for the creation of a Global Internet Council, tied to the United Nations and made up of representatives from governments, industry and other concerned groups that would take over from the United States the leading role in deciding Internet issues.

Another of the panel's proposals is to basically keep the current system intact, under which ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a U.S.-based non-profit organization, makes key decisions for the Internet. However there would be a strengthened role for ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee

A third envisions an International Internet Council, outside U.N. auspices, that would take over much of the United States' role.

The fourth and final option is to create three bodies, one to address policy issues, one for oversight and one for global coordination.

The report has a strong focus on increasing Internet access for countries in the developing world. The executive director of the U.N. working group, Markus Kummer, says the report urges more effective and meaningful participation of developing countries in international Internet meetings and recommends building up their ability to deal with complex issues.

"It is sometimes difficult physically for representatives from developing countries to be present," he said. "It involves a lot of traveling, a lot of costs. But this is only one aspect. The other aspect is because the arrangements are so complicated, because the issues are so complex, it is difficult to address these if you do not have enough knowledge on how to address these issues."

Mr. Kummer says these two aspects are closely interrelated. He says the more developing countries are absent from these discussions, the less they understand the issues.