[LINK] Debate flares on net rules

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Tue Jun 23 15:21:32 EST 2009

Debate flares on net rules
Andrew Colley
June 23, 2009
The Australian

Sydney will this week host a heated international debate on the 
regulation of the internet, as its peak governance body resists pressure 
from Europe to become more independent of the US.

The private, non-profit body ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned 
Names and Numbers), which runs the internet's network address system 
under contract from the US government, will hold its triennial 
international meeting in Sydney this week.

About 1300 delegates representing up to 50 countries are expected to 
debate a request by the European Union last week to privatise ICANN and 
bring it under international supervision.

They will also discuss plans and proposals to make some of the biggest 
changes to the internet ever attempted.

These include the introduction non-Roman characters for domain names for 
the first time, and allowing organisations to register and control 
top-level domain names such as .food and .coke.

Last week the EU commission said ICANN should operate under "clear 
guidelines defined through an international dialogue".

"The network should be managed by private bodies on principles agreed 
upon by public authorities but without government interference in 
day-to-day operations," the EU executive said.

This week ICANN will consider proposals to strengthen its board's 
accountability to the international community in an attempt appease its 

ICANN chief executive and president Paul Twomey, an Australian, said the 
body planned to establish a quasi-legal tribunal of international judges 
that would have the power to hear appeals on board decisions.

"We've presently got an independent review panel mechanism that makes 
reviews of board decisions.

"We want to boost that to be an independent review tribunal of standing 
international judges and apply basic principles like those that would be 
applicable in Australian administrative law," he said.

"They're powers that the US government doesn't have," Dr Twomey said.

For the past 11 years ICANN has also held a non-financial procurement 
contract issued by the US Department of Commerce.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) contract was created by 
the Clinton administration to end the US National Science Foundation's 
20-year role in funding essentially the same functions.

Critics argue the system should be overhauled when ICANN's joint project 
agreement with the department expires in September.

"In the view of the European Commission, future internet governance 
arrangements should reflect the key role that the global network has 
come to play for all countries," it said.

The US government has the power to tear up the IANA contract with ICANN 
if it chooses but ICANN maintains that the US government does not 
interfere in its daily operations.

ICANN argues that criticisms of it are based on misconceptions that the 
department has oversight in regulating internet names.

Not helping to ease such perceptions is the fact that early this month 
both Democrat and Republican politicians told a US House of 
Representatives hearing on ICANN they favoured continued US supervision.

In a report to the US Department of Commerce, ICANN said its model for 
regulating internet names had been a success and it was "time to 
acknowledge and enshrine what works".

In the same report it also warned that the joint agreement was eroding 
confidence in the ICANN model and it should not be continued after it 


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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