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U.N. Management of Internet 'Unacceptable'

The U.S. is flatly opposed to any proposal that cedes control of the Internet to the United Nations (U.N.), despite a shift in support from the European Union (EU).

The comments were made in the wake of talks to create a subsidiary intergovernmental group to manage the Internet.

"We will not agree to the U.N. taking over the management of the Internet," said David Gross, the U.S. ambassador and coordinator for international communications and information policy at the U.S. Department of State, according to a news report by Associated Press . "Some countries want that. We think that's unacceptable."

Gross indicated in the report that the Internet's development and success comes from its flexibility and leadership from the private-sector.

State Department officials were not available at press time for comment on Gross' statements.

The comments were made the same day the European Union (EU) proposed the adoption of a new Internet governance model overseen by public and private organizations, with an international multi-stakeholder forum.

The proposal is based on recommendations made by the U.N.-sponsored Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) in July to establish an Internet governance model that isn't tied specifically to one country, in this case the U.S.

The proposed model "represented a clear departure from the 'status quo' camp led by the U.S.," according a statement by officials at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Internet governance is primarily handled through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), with a Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) component for individual nations.

ICANN is a privately-owned contractor --providing technical and some policy-making support -- to the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), which owns the 13 root servers housing the master index of domain names (for example, .com, .biz, .us, .uk).

Exactly a year from now ICANN's contract, called a memorandum of understanding, with the DOC will end. Up until recently, the federal government had indicated it was willing to cede ultimate control of the root servers to ICANN at the end of the contract, provided the organization met the agency's requirements.

Government officials reversed their policy in early July and said they would retain their veto power over ICANN's management of the Internet.

Bret Fausett, a member of ICANN's At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) and author of the Lextext blog on Internet domain issues, said the EU proposal will certainly make it popular with developing countries who want more say in the Internet governance process.

But it wasn't a particularly risky move for the EU to make, he said, because they are secure in the knowledge the U.S. is adamant about not giving control to the U.N. Many of the member nations within the EU, he said, still support the U.S. role for Internet governance.

Many private organizations are banking on U.S. intransigence and haven't been paying much attention to the work at the WGIG, but that would quickly change if the U.S. did decide to adopt something like the EU's proposal, Fausett said.

U.N. control, he said, would not be good for Internet governance, he said, which is primarily technical in nature.

"I can't imagine having to convene the governments of the world, or at least some task force, to measure those decisions about how to transfer a domain name from one registrar to another against all the treaties of the world," he said. "It's a level of bureaucracy that straightforward technical management issues don't need."