The United States has indicated that it is not willing to relinquish control of the internet to the United Nations.
At present, US-based ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is responsible for the coordination of IP address spaces, the assignment of address blocks, the maintenance of registries and the management of the top-level domain name space.
However, it has been suggested that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – the UN agency responsible for encouraging the development of communications technologies – could perform at least some of these tasks.
The ITU is hosting a conference in Dubai in December, to which representatives from 178 nations have been invited to review the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR), which set out how traffic should flow between telecoms networks in different countries.
At the conference, Russia, whose submission was leaked to website Wcitleaks.org, will suggest that the ITU should be responsible for the allocation IP addresses and the “determination of necessary requirements”. The proposal is expected to be backed by several other nations, including China.
However, the US has published its own submission for the conference, stating its concern that “proposals by some other governments could lead to greater regulatory burdens being placed on the international telecom sector”.
The US’s ambassador to the conference, Terry Kramer, said: “The United States also believes that the existing multi-stakeholder institutions, incorporating industry and civil society, have functioned effectively and will continue to ensure the health and growth of the Internet and all of its benefits.”
The ITU has made it clear that any changes to the treaty must have unanimous support, and that it would block members trying to put any matter to a vote.
“We never vote because voting means winners and losers and you can’t afford that,” Dr Hamadoun Toure, the ITU’s secretary-general told the BBC. “Whatever one single country does not accept will not pass.”
The battle for control of the Internet has been raging for some time, and shows few signs of abating. In fact, the issue was a hot topic of debate at the ITU’s World Summit on the Information Society back in 2003.