Nations worldwide differ over Internet control by UN

The U.S. has vowed to resist attempts to have the Internet under the control of the United Nations. A number of countries including Russia, India and China are however reported to disagree with the stance.

BRICS countries including China, Brazil, India and Russia are pushing for a takeover of the Internet control by a UN agency to make the Net “truly universal.” The plan, according to a report, is to regulate the conduct of countries on information and cyberspace — including data privacy, cyber security, global Web address system and technical standards.

This follows worldwide speculations that some nations could push for a change in a UN treaty charged with regulating the Internet in December this year. A number of emerging economies backed by members of the UN initiated the discussion surrounding handing over Internet control to a UN agency. However, the UN cannot force the countries to comply.

A group of US-based nonprofit bodies presently watch over the Internet’s technical specifications and domain name system operating at arm’s length from the government of the United States — under the Department of Commerce.

Following the divergent positions by nations worldwide, the US has since proclaimed its position in documents filed with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the UN arm responsible for fostering communication technology development.

The ITU is scheduled to host a forum towards the end of this year in Dubai to which delegates from some 178 nations would review the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR), which is a 1988 treaty renowned for having set rules for how traffic should be transmitted between different telecommunications networks. ITR also sets out the criteria for calculating charges for exchanged traffic between carriers in different countries.

According to an expert analysis, the rise of mobile devices and Internet has prompted calls for the review of the ITR.

In a statement published by US Department of State, the nation’s ambassador to the conference Terry Kramer raised his fears stating the US is concerned that “proposals by some other governments could lead to greater regulatory burdens being placed on the international telecom sector, or perhaps even extended to the internet sector.”

“The United States also believes that 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 its benefits,” Kramer stated.

According to an ITU policy, the UN agency does not publish submissions made by each country, reserving it for the individual countries to choose which material to release. A site dubbed Wcitleaks.org has however posted proposals leaked to it including Russia’s submission suggesting the UN agency could “become responsible for allocating at least some of the internet’s addresses as well as the “determination of the necessary requirements.”

Presently, Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) overseas the codes and numbering systems then leaving it to ISPs (internet service providers) to assign individual addresses.

According to the Russian Today, a paper, India and China had backed Russia’s position.

In an interview with the BBC, ITU’s secretary-general Dr Hamadoun Toure said: “We never vote because voting means winners and losers and you can’t afford that… Whatever one single country does not accept will not pass.”

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