Australia backs Internet status quo

Australia has backed the current Internet governance regime in the wake of the Bush administration's surprise announcement it would not relinquish control of the Net to any other body. In the past, the US has indicated it would transfer the responsibility of managing the Internet's "root" -- the master file that lists what top-level domains are authorised -- to the non-profit, private Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Australia has backed the current Internet governance regime in the wake of the Bush administration's surprise announcement it would not relinquish control of the Net to any other body.

In the past, the US has indicated it would transfer the responsibility of managing the Internet's "root" -- the master file that lists what top-level domains are authorised -- to the non-profit, private Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). But last week, Assistant Commerce Secretary Michael Gallagher said the US would "maintain its historic role in authorising changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file."

In addition, the US will continue to maintain "oversight" over ICANN and prevent its "focus" from straying from technical coordination.

When asked if Australia supported the Bush administration's decision, Senator Helen Coonan, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, told ZDNet Australia&nbsp: "The governance of the Internet should facilitate the participation of multiple stakeholders, including the industry and business, civil society and governments.

"This is exactly what happens under the existing arrangements with ICANN."

Coonan said Australia has effectively pursued its interests through current Internet governance arrangements and will continue to work to ensure its interests are strongly represented in future arrangements.

Australia already controls its country code Top Level Domain (TLD) -- the .au domain -- through an agreement with ICANN. While control over policy within the .au domain is very important, she said it is equally desirable that there be consistency of approach between all country TLDs throughout the world to ensure the Internet does not become fragmented.

On its part, the US has said it would work with governments to deal with their "legitimate public policy and sovereignty concerns" relating to their country code TLDs (such as .au for Australia and .uk for the United Kingdom). It argued the decision to maintain control was to preserve the security and stability of the Internet's Domain Name and Addressing System (DNS).

The move has sparked criticism from countries such as Japan, who described it as "not entirely necessary", and has been viewed as pre-empting a report on Internet governance presently being prepared by a United Nations panel.

KC Claffy, principal investigator at the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), an independent body that promotes cooperation in building a scalable Internet infrastructure, said the current model for Internet governance is far from satisfactory.

"The status quo for Internet governance is indeed sub-optimal, sadly, it's only better than every other idea proposed so far. It would be ideal if all countries could "have a say" in how a global digital communications infrastructure evolves. We haven't yet seen a compelling architecture for the governance component of that position. Where's Eleanor Roosevelt when you need her," said Claffy.

News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.