Written by UKWDA on 07 August 2012
Efforts by Russia, China and their allies to put the internet under the control of the United Nations are being resisted by the United States - a role currently fulfilled by several non-profit US organisations.
Although the US government does not directly control these organisations, they operate under the remit of the US Department of Commerce.
Later this year, the ITU - the UN agency responsible for the development of communications technologies - will hold the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai at which control of the internet’s address system will be discussed.
In documents filed with the ITU - the US has set out its position opposing any changes to the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR) Treaty which was agreed in 1988 and sets out the rules for how data is exchanged between networks in different countries.
However, the explosive growth of the internet and mobile networks has led for calls for the ITR to be updated - but the US cannot be forced to comply.
"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 - a result the US would oppose," said Terry Kramer in a statement published by the US Department of State.
Kramer went on to say “We will not support any effort to broaden the scope of the ITRs to facilitate any censorship of content or blocking the free flow of information and ideas.”
According to documents recently leaked by a website called Wcitleaks.org, Russia has been particularly vocal in its support for changes to be made to how the internet’s address system is managed - the role currently coordinated by ICANN - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers based in the US.
And last year Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was keen to discuss "establishing international control over the internet using the monitoring and supervisory capabilities of the International Telecommunication Union", a view also shared by communist China according to Russian media reports.
However, Dr Hamadoun Toure, the ITU’s Secretary-General told the BBC that any changes to the 1988 Treaty would need unanimous support and that it would block members trying to put any matter to a vote. "Whatever one single country does not accept will not pass.”, he said, but also acknowledged that some countries were unhappy with the way ICANN managed the internet’s address system.