The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) currently operates under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The European Union (EU) stated on Monday that it would like to change that. If the EU has its way, ICANN would run as an independent body with 12 representatives from across the globe.
The issue is that the EU does not like the fact that the U.S. "controls" assigning Internet addresses. Some countries have criticized the U.S. for not opening up more top-level domains (TLD) and feel that it would be run better if managed by an international organization.
I couldn't disagree with this more. First, have you ever listened to the United Nations debate an issue? It takes forever for them to agree on anything and often there is never a resolution. Decisions will be delayed and the advancement of the Internet will come to a crawl. Could you imagine if a quick decision had to be made? This might put us and our companies at risk.
Second, the U.S. generates a tremendous amount of e-commerce traffic on the Internet. Do we want to put our economic future in the hands of countries that do not have as much at stake as we do? Even though the U.S. generates only 30 percent of the total Internet traffic, the majority of e-commerce flows through the U.S. We can debate numbers here, but I'm not going to.
Third, the U.S. maintained the Internet for many years and has done an excellent job at it. Do we want to put TLD and server management in the hands of people that do little to continue the development of it? Please spare me the protocols developed in Europe.
Fourth, many of the countries arguing for a more openly governed Internet do not believe in free expression themselves. Russia, China, North Korea, and some Middle Eastern states are the countries pushing the most for international governance. I could only imagine why.
Finally, the EU should not have a say in how the Internet is being run at all. The EU passed a bill that will soon go into effect that does some really nasty things to users. It limits the number of Web sites a user can visit and it tells you whether you can use a specific service. This will control the flow of information (music, video, and data) over the Internet in those participating European countries. If you do business with any EU country, good luck. The people in those countries will never even know your Web site exists.
I can understand world governments wanting more input into ICANN and server management. Here is what I recommend:
First, the United Nations should create a sub-group where member countries can voice their concerns. This is not a decision-making group, but more of a place to talk about issues.
Second, no member country has input into the daily running of the Internet, ICANN, or its servers, except the U.S. since we are currently managing them.
Third, English should remain the main language on the Internet. Many countries are pushing for their own language. Could you imagine the mess that would create?
Finally, ICANN can do a better job at running things. It should form a working group made up of industry, academics, and IT professionals that meet to improve service.
If the EU were to take over ICANN and management of its servers, our security, economic position, freedoms, and democracy would be at stake. This also puts our companies under the same restraint.