Welcome InstaPundit readers! Also check out this post that updates the events and political machinations that have continued in the Kelo case since the Supreme Court handed down its infamous eminent-domain decision.
To Kofi Annan and the other snakes who say that authority over the Internet “should be shared with the international community” (i.e., “surrendered unilaterally”), even while conceding that “The United States …. has exercised its oversight responsibilities fairly and honorably,” I say:
Ya want it?
Just try to come and get it!
Better yet–Build your own.
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Conference will take place in Tunisia this coming Wednesday through Friday (Nov. 16-18).
It has become very clear in the past few months that the European Union and the United Nations intend to use this conference to attempt to intimidate the United States into changing how the Internet is governed and managed.
The biggest concerns over changing how things are done now are:
- Human rights will suffer–The concern (near end at link) is that an alternative governance and management regime might be hostile to fundamental human rights. The worries are not unfounded. A prominent press freedom group based in Paris(!) has strong reservations about changing the current operation and control structure:
Those who oppose U.N. or other multilateral control note that some of the governments pushing hardest for a change are also the world’s most repressive when it comes to preventing free speech on the Internet.
“Do we really want the countries that censor the Internet and throw its users in prison to be in charge of regulating the flow of information on it?” the independent media group Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF) asked Thursday, citing China, Cuba and others.
The Paris-based organization also rejected the E.U. suggestion, calling it “too vague to be a credible alternative.”
“It has to be admitted that the U.S. has managed to develop the Internet without major problems and that it broadly respects online freedom of expression,” it said.
“So let us hope an acceptable compromise – that reduces government intervention to a minimum and guarantees freedom of expression – will be found at the WSIS.
“If not, it would be best to leave things as they are.”
It’s worth noting that the European Union’s initial offensive to browbeat the US into changing its current Internet role, as the UK TimesOnline notes, “received the backing of states known to stifle free speech.” And how about a French-based organization in the heart of the EU admitting that we’re doing a good job with the Internet?
- (The implied evil of) American “unilateralism” (when it is this unilateralism that has taken the Internet to its current remarkable state)–This isn’t an issue as much as it is an emotional appeal. Responding to this, US Ambassador David A. Gross, the senior diplomat representing the US at the upcoming conference, says that he consulted intensely (link requires subscription) with governments and industry before the US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued its four perfectly reasonable principles of Internet governance in June (original not numbered; full text of the fourth principle is provided for clarity; my comments are in italics):
- The United States Government intends to preserve the security and stability of the Internetâ€™s Domain Name and Addressing System (DNS). (No other entity can credibly make this guarantee.)
- Governments have legitimate interest in the management of their country code top level domains (ccTLD). (Of course they do, and no one is in their way, as long as they don’t mess with “security and stability.”)
- ICANN is the appropriate technical manager of the Internet DNS. (Is anyone claiming that ICANN isn’t doing its job well, or that it’s suffering from interference in carrying out its mission? I didn’t think so.)
- Dialogue related to Internet governance should continue in relevant multiple fora. Given the breadth of topics potentially encompassed under the rubric of Internet governance there is no one venue to appropriately address the subject in its entirety. While the United States recognizes that the current Internet system is working, we encourage an ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders around the world in the various fora as a way to facilitate discussion and to advance our shared interest in the ongoing robustness and dynamism of the Internet. In these fora, the United States will continue to support market-based approaches and private sector leadership in Internet development broadly. (We’ll talk about anything relating to how the Internet is managed and how to further develop it, just not about how it is governed. The thing that REALLY bothers those who want to usurp Internet governance is the language in this fourth principle on markets and the private sector, i.e., NOT meddling governments.)
- Substance (us) vs. process (them)–To quote the previously linked WSJ piece: “Europeans tend to value process more, while Americans prefer results. The EU itself was born out of a process whose aim was to prevent new war in Europe and, thus, the EU is valued for its own sake irrespective of its inefficiencies. Americans find it difficult to love multilateral bodies that don’t produce results — or might endanger achievement. You can’t come up with more succinct statement of our fundamental differences, or in the current situation, a better reason NOT to allow anyone from the EU or the UN to get their grubby “consensus-driven” hands on something as important as the inner workings of the Internet.
What will happen if, as expected, the US stares down the world’s interlopers in Tunisia? The Cassandras would have you believe that the world will devolve into a Babel-like collection of “multiple Internets” if the current dispute isn’t resolved. Bryan Carney at OpinionJournal.com essentially says “let them go” (link may require registration), and that mutual self-interest will prevent the feared communications nightmare:
The U.S. government has led many to believe that this is equivalent to dismantling the Internet itself. But it is bluffing.
Here’s how it might work. At some point, China will grow tired of the U.S. refusal to give up control to the U.N., and it will secede from the status quo. It will set up its own root server, tweaked to allow access only to those sites the government deems nonthreatening, and simply order every Internet service provider in the country to use it instead of Icann’s. The change will be seamless to most users, but China will have set up its own private Net, one answerable to the people’s revolutionaries rather than to the U.S. Commerce Department.
Others may follow suit. Root servers could spring up in France, or Cuba, or Iran. In time, the Internet might look less like the Internet and more like, say, the phone system, where there is no “controlling legal authority” on the international level. More liberal-minded countries would probably, if they did adopt a local root-server, allow users to specify which server they wanted to query when typing in, say, Microsoft.com.
As a technical means of content control, going “split root,” as they say in the business, is too compelling for governments not to give it a try. But the user experience would likely be much the same as it ever was most of the time. ISPs, as well as most vaguely democratic governments, would have an interest in ensuring broad interoperability, just as no one in Saudi Arabia or China has yet decided that dialing +1-202-456-1414–the White House switchboard number–from those countries should go somewhere else, like Moammar Gadhafi’s house. Nothing stops phone companies from doing things like that, except that the market expects a certain consistency in how phone calls are directed, so it is in the interests of the operators to supply what the market expects. The same principle would apply in a split-root world.
Would it be better if countries that want to muck around with the Net just didn’t? Sure. But they do want to, and they will, and it would be far better, in the long run, if they did so on their own, without a U.N. agency to corrupt or give them shelter. It’s time to drop the apocalyptic rhetoric about a split root file and start looking beyond the age of a U.S.-dominated Internet. Breaking up is hard to do, but in this case, the alternative would be worse.
I agree. A fragmented (but not for long) Internet beats a UN-controlled Internet by a mile.
UPDATE: As I have noted before (outdated or unavailable links have been updated), I would expect a UN-controlled Internet to have:
- the financial accountability of African dictators,
- combined with the incorruptbility of The United Nations,
- along with the respect for human rights, online freedom, personal privacy, intellectual property, and global brand names mainland China is so noted for,
- with a dash of the sanctity and great feeling for human life found in American radicals and Islamic terrorists.
UPDATE 2: Instapundit notes that Tunisia has “set the tone” for the conference by shutting down Internet dissent. And Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman is afraid the conference will turn into a “digital Munich” (HT CyberLawHarvard).
UPDATE 3: Instapundit updates with links to this great op-ed piece by Arch Puddington of Freedom House (“Keep the Internet Free”) and a succinct WaPo letter to the editor (“The Internet Is in Good Hands”).
UPDATE 4, Dec. 4: S.O.B. Alliance member NixGuy finds (and translates) the letter from Condi Rice to EU President Jack Straw that staked out the US position on Internet governance. The result was that the EU stuck with the US position after months of making noises about contesting it.
Other reading matter:
- EWeek–Academics Take Sides in ICANN Tug of War
- ZDnet–David Gross Interview
- NixGuy–Who Controls the Internet? (in plain language)
- GovTech–(MN Senator Norm) Coleman Denounces U.N. Internet Governance Report
- Atlas Shrugs–UN World Body to Silence the Internet and Blogs
- WSIS Declaration of Principles from the 2003 Geneva meeting
- The WSIS 2003 Plan of Action
Previous BizzyBlog Posts:
- Oct. 7–This Had Better Not Be True (US to Give Up â€œRoot Server Controlâ€ of the Internet?)
- October 3–The Whining About “Control” of the Internet Continues (Plus the “Gobbled Up” Internet Addresses Canard)
- September 29–Internet Control Stays in the US (I should think so)
- July 5–US Retains Control of Internet Directory: AP Has Hissy Fit