Europe calls time on US stewardship of the internet

Europe calls time on US stewardship of the internet

Summary: The European Commission has pledged to produce a timeline for the globalisation of ICANN, the US-headquartered body that manages top level domains on the net.

TOPICS: Security, EU

The European Commission has published proposals aimed at weakening US control of key parts of the internet.

According to the EC, revelations about "large-scale surveillance" by the US National Security Agency have "called into question the stewardship of the US when it comes to internet governance".

In a document, published yesterday, the EC proposes to "establish a timeline for the globalisation of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers" (ICANN), the US-headquartered body that manages the top level domains, such as .com and .net, and the coordination of internet address spaces, IPv4 and IPv6.

ICANN is headquartered in California and under contract with the US Department of Commerce to manage the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), whose responsibilities include overseeing allocation of IP addresses worldwide.

The EC proposals also pledge that the commission will "identify how to globalise the IANA functions, while safeguarding the continued stability and security of the domain-name system".

ICANN is already independent from the US on paper, and moves are afoot to give other countries a greater stake in the running of ICANN, with the organisation establishing operational hubs in Istanbul and Singapore in 2013.

"These steps are welcome. However, ICANN's status under Californian law with a contractual relationship to a single country has not changed," the EC proposal says.

It says that governance of ICANN "must become more global in an era of the internet as it has become a vital support function of societies and economies in the whole world".

However, Neelie Kroes, digital chief for the EC, doesn't want to see the International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency, taking charge of internet governance.

"Some are calling for the International Telecommunications Union to take control of key internet functions. I agree that governments have a crucial role to play, but top-down approaches are not the right answer. We must strengthen the multi-stakeholder model to preserve the internet as a fast engine for innovation," she says.

The EC calls for more policy discussions to take place within the Internet Governance Forum, a group established by the UN for government officials, academics and business representatives worldwide to debate issues of internet governance.

The commission also plans to set up an online platform named the Global Internet Policy Observatory, which will act as a "global online resource for monitoring internet policy-making, regulations and technology to help identify links between different forums and discussions, in order to overcome 'policy silos' and help to contextualise information".

The EC plans to use these proposals as the basis for its negotiations in forthcoming international meetings on internet governance: such as the Netmundial meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil in April; the Internet Governance Forum in August and the High Level ICANN meeting.

Further reading

Topics: Security, EU


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • Yeah, what a noble aspiration

    But possession in this case is 100% of the law. I don't think we should relinquish control, but if we do we shouldn't do it for free.
  • I think I would prefer Europe to take over United Nations ...

    cost and responsibility for policing the world. If they can do that, then maybe we give them ICANN ;-)
  • One sure way to screw things up....

    get the UN involved.
    Test Subject
  • I love it when Europe

    plays holier than thou. They spy on their people just as much. It's just that they're better at squashing leakers.
    • What makes you think they're better... squashing leakers? And are there any successful practices in that regard that you think we should adopt?
      John L. Ries
    • But only USA morons can promote the hypocrisy ...

      The hypocrisy that says US citizens have rights, then override those of other states. It's surely a matter of time till the trunks are severed and the Internets are joined by a Gateway, A gateway where we can exist on a level playing field in Europe knowing we're all treated the same and treat the world with the same ethics. And block the idiots from the other side that think their rights are purely for them and everyone else is scum. What would you expect if folk treated you differently than they treat themselves? What would you think if terrorists (for talking sake) were protected more because they were in one country? That's what the yanks are saying, not me.
  • They're deluded.

    The rest of the world having a stronger influence over ICANN will not affect Internet spying in any way. The only way they could eliminate Internet spying is to completely replace the Internet with a more secure design. With the entire world economy struggling, there isn't any country on Earth that has the resources to finance that sort of fundamental change, including the U.S. I don't think they understand exactly what ICANN does.
  • ITU definitely not good for the Internet

    Considering the ITU tried to pull a stroke on governmental control of the internet, that would not be the best reputation to take over from ICANN.
    Politically a new group with a virgin record and the same old school buddies in the background will be the obvious suggestion.
  • If the EU wants something

    then it's bad for everyone else. The EU is nothing but a bunch of bureaucratic self-serving government control style zombies with a self-serving agenda. They have no ground to play the "holier than thou" card. They're crying because they don't have a bigger piece of the "internet control pie" when they didn't create the internet. So pi$$ off EU and stay in Europe and build your own internet if you feel the need to take over control of something.
  • My Precious

    It's mine, mine I tell you. My precious.
  • Create your own Internet

    The US government created the Internet. If Europe doesn't like the Internet they can disconnect from our Internet and create their own.
    • That may be what it comes down to

      The TCP-IP protocol suite is free for all to use, and each country already has its own root domain. There's nothing to stop them from cooperating to create a new system.
      John L. Ries
  • I think we're losing this fight

    But I'm glad the ITU appears to be out of the picture.

    I think the standard rule for governments and everybody else should be:

    You may well have secrets that need to be kept, but try as hard as you can to make sure that you're not doing anything you'd be embarrassed for other people to find out about.
    John L. Ries
  • Personally...

    I don't think any one country should have any control over the internet. But how do you avoid that when people are required to run things?
  • ITU

    I would be very much against handing over any control to the ITU. These are the same Bozos that tried to foist huge regulations under the auspice of individual Government controls ( censorship) This agenda was pushed by Russia and several middle eastern and African countries, all bastiens of human rights and free speech.
  • We, we, me, me, or they, hey!

    All this talk of we as if we all personally have control over the internet. Corporations want full control over it because they know that there's big money to be made with it; just ask Facebook and Google and all the other giant internet corps. For them the worst thing that could happen is losing that control. As for the "we"? Sorry, but we don't stand to lose or gain a damn thing! We just pay for the right, it isn't free for the "we".
    Hector Velez
  • Euroweenie electronic p3nis envy

    As always, the Euroweenies want to puff the chest and strut their importance by horning in. If their participation is as effective as the UN or the EU then the internet's days are numbered. We'll be back to clay tablets and styli in no time.
  • U.S.

    The U.S. created it and got it up and running. If Europe thinks they should take control of it, then they can just bend over and kiss our collective asses. What gives them the right to horn in on something that we created.
    It don't matter who owns it, that won't stop the powers that be from spying. I know everyone don't trust the U.S. government because of the NSA spying, and I can't blame them. But taking control of the internet isn't going to stop that practice, the U.S. will still have their black boxes hooked into the ISP's backbone(s) located in the U.S..
    • Made In America (internet)!

      It has bee a while since I have see these words anywhere.

      But back to the issue at hand:
      The thought that the internet belongs to the USA just because its origins are based in there, is simply inane and infantile.
      I am sure there are many technologies invented in Europe or Asia that are widely adopted in the USA. Should we give these technologies back to the Europeans / Asians over such a silly fret!?

      In my mind, such themed posts evoke an image of toddlers throwing their toys out of the cot to express an act of rebelliousness instead of constructive criticism (IF due). Please do not obfuscate the real issue - post sensibly!