October 3, 2005

The Whining About “Control” of the Internet Continues (Plus the “Gobbled Up” Internet Addresses Canard)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:02 am

Following on the heels of this previous post on the UN wanting to take over management of the Internet, a call rightly rejected by the US, there have been additional news items on the topic.

First, the UN says it’s ready to rule:

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is ready to take over governance of the Internet from the United States., ITU head Yoshio Utsumi said on Friday.

The United States has clashed with the European Union and much of the rest of the world over the future of the Internet. It currently manages the global information system through a partnership with California-based company ICANN.

“We could do it if we were asked to,” Utsumi told a news conference. The U.N. agency’s experience in communications, its structure and its cooperation with private and public bodies made it best-placed to take on the role, he said.

Washington has made clear it would oppose any such move despite widespread demands for changes in the current system.

And of course, in this AP piece by Aoife White, the EU chimes in: “EU Wants Shared Control of Internet” (HT Little Green Footballs-LGF):

The European Union insisted Friday that governments and the private sector must share the responsibility of overseeing the Internet, setting the stage for a showdown with the United States on the future of Internet governance.

A senior U.S. official reiterated Thursday that the country wants to remain the Internet’s ultimate authority, rejecting calls in a United Nations meeting in Geneva for a U.N. body to take over.

EU spokesman Martin Selmayr said a new cooperation model was important “because the Internet is a global resource.”

“The EU … is very firm on this position,” he added.

The Geneva talks were the last preparatory meeting before November’s World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia.

….. Some countries have been frustrated that the United States and European countries that got on the Internet first gobbled up most of the available addresses required for computers to connect, leaving developing nations with a limited supply to share.

The piece repeats almost verbatim a claim made in another AP article by Bradley Klapper yesterday:

While this arrangement satisfies some, developing countries have been frustrated that Western countries that got on the Internet first gobbled up most of the available addresses required for computers to connect, leaving developing nations to share a limited supply.

I guess both White and Klapper are good at retyping press releases. They’re not as good at relaying accurate information to their readers.

The “gobbling up addresses” claim simply isn’t true (HT to LGF reader “Hunter”–I’m sorry I didn’t get your first name before I deleted the e-mail):

Looking at how take up of address space has progressed until now, experts are divided on when addresses will run out. Estimates of this time fall between 2019 and 2040.

This means that we do not have ‘forever’. Plans are in place to find a new way of allocating addresses well ahead of the pool running out.

In other words, “Don’t worry; be happy; they’re working on it.”

These two comments from LGF readers are also pertinent:

From RedhouseBluestate:

Most of the world’s address space is already claimed. But by using tools like NAT* and PAT** you can hide an entire network of computers behind a single IP address, and they can use IP addresses already assigned to other people.

*NAT – Network Address Translation. Used extensively. Even though, for example, AT&T owns 63.x.x.x, I can have a router or a firewall change every 63.x.x.x address I’m running on my private network, to look like another address once it leaves my network and heads to the internet.

**PAT – Port Address Translation. By employing this nifty little tool, I can have tens of thousands of servers sitting behind a router or a firewall, and all traffic exiting my device will appear as one or two addresses.

Anyone who’s using a nifty little LinkSys router to plug multiple home computers into, say Road Runner or Cable/DSL, is already using these tools.

From bianchi_roadie:

(The Internet) actually isn’t “controlled” by anyone. Just a set of agreements between networks, which are controlled by companies, universities, and governments.

The only thing the Dept of Commerce “controls” about the Internet is that they back ICANN and IANA, which regulate the root zone of DNS. The US gov’t doesn’t even control much of the RIR’s (which maintain the IP address allocations around the world – 1 in North America, 1 in Asia, 1 in Europe, and 2 new ones in Africa and Latin America).

Really, the US DoC only approves changes to the root DNS file. The rest is left up to ISP’s, business regulations and standards bodies. My fear is that the UN would seek to impose tighter controls than the USG (United States Government) ever would – “hate speech” crimes for online postings for example.

This is exactly what to fear from any UN or EU role in Internet governance. Their instincts, especially the UN’s, are demonstrably anti-democratic. The Internet has thrived under US governance, and there’s no reason to change things now.
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UPDATE: Willisms’ Hoodlumman: “Sorry, those guys couldn’t manage a Jiffy Lube.”

UPDATE 2: RConversation has a typically newsworthy and thoughtful post on the Internet, human rights, and the November World Summit on the Information Society that will take place in Tunis. First two paras:

Internet governance fight: will the real loser be human rights?

Much is being reported on the clash between the U.S. and most other world governments over who should control the internet… and the failure of diplomats at last week’s Geneva meeting to agree on a document outlining the future of internet governance, which is (or was) supposed to get announced at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in mid-November.

Many of the governments who want to assert more control over the way the internet works are not friends of human rights and free speech. Like China, Iran, and the summit’s host country, Tunisia. Human rights groups are, shall we say, concerned about what this will mean for the future of free speech and human rights activism on the internet. A case in point: China has moved to block the exiled Chinese dissident organization, Human Rights in China, from participating as a non-governmental organization at WSIS.

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Previous Posts:
- July 5–US Retains Control of Internet Directory: AP Has Hissy Fit
- September 29–Internet Control Stays in the US (I should think so)

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