The Internet, which grew up in a state of anarchy, looks set to continue on its unconstrained path after a UN working group failed to agree on a strategy to move the Internet forward. The news, has been welcomed by one of the UK's more tech-savvy MPs.
The group reported on its findings last week and decided that the most important issue is that no single company or organisation should be allowed to dominate the Internet. Four possible ways forward have been proposed.
The report says that "no single government should have a pre-eminent role in relation to international Internet governance". However the Bush administration's position, announced last month, is that the US should retain its key interest in controlling the development of the Internet.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has long pressed industry, government and private interest groups to ensure that people in poor nations have greater access to the Internet. But while Annan has fought for the rights of the poorer nations, others have been fighting to retain the status quo.
Labour MP and spokesman on the Internet, Derek Wyatt, welcomed the stalemate. "We should be eternally grateful that the UN has failed to reach agreement, it's the last thing we want," he told ZDNet UK. "It would be singularly inappropriate for that mid-20th century body, which is badly in need of a total refit, to take on anything as radical as Internet governance."
Among the governance options put forward by the UN group were a continuation of the current system; creation of a world body to address public policy issues stemming from the work of the ICANN; and creation of a body to address a broader range of public policy issues. The fourth option is to create three bodies, one to address policy issues, one for oversight and one for global coordination.
The group also recommended a coordinated global effort to combat spam and urged that law enforcement authorities respect the right to freedom of expression when they crack down on Internet-related crimes.