Should America Control the Internet?
Published on October 20, 2005 By Larry Kuperman In Internet
If you browse the Internet (and if you don't you're not reading this!) the websites that you visit ultimately get their names from ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.) ICANN is a non-profit agency, based in California. Which means that they are regulated to one degree or another by the US Commerce Department, a part of the US Government.

Which means that the US Government controls the Internet. And some nations have a problem with that.

Countries such as Brazil and Iran have argued that the Internet is too important a resource for one country to control. Hence, the argument goes, an international body such as the UN should have the final say. In response, Minnesota Republican Sen. Norm Coleman has introduced a bill calling for the addressing system to remain under US control.

The first thought that occurs to me is the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The second, is that there is no body more capable of administering the naming conventions. The UN? With its glorious history of efficiency and expedient action? Ha! The only problem that would solve is finding a new job for some of Kofi Annan's unemployed relatives.

Perhaps Iran itself? Peace-loving, law-abiding Iran? You can visit Iran' s website at (Not a real website in case you haven't gathered that. A little sarcasm.)

Or that model of efficient governance, the EU? Would it be "Le Internet" or "Das Internet?" Oh, and by the way, the Internet will be closed during August.

At the risk of invoking Al Gore jokes, the United States built the Internet and has done a remarkably good job of maintaining it. What is broken that needs fixing, one should ask, and who would be better at maintaining it? Internet-wide problems have been, with some exceptions, few and far between. Legislative interference has been almost unknown. There is no reason for change that I can see.

I do understand the concerns of countries that fear that, at some future time, the Internet could be politicized. But, until that happens, leave well enough alone.

Comments (Page 1)
on Oct 20, 2005
Somehow the idea of nations who can't universalize phone service and electricity strike me as dubiously suited to oversee the Internet. France, a nation where thousands of people die when the summer gets too hot, well, I think it's pretty obvious that they would use the Internet any way they could to stifle all the horrid cultures that are polluting their pure Arya... um... Amphib... urr... French culture.

The fact they endanger the lives of thousands of their weakest citizens over dubious environmental stances makes me wonder where free speech would go. Ideals over reality and all that silliness. France and Germany are notorious about trying to stifle free speech on the Internet, as are Arab nations and many others who would suddenly have a big hand in management were it to become a UN-style endeavor.

It doesn't seem fair, granted, but I can't think of any other nation worthy of the task, frankly, that wouldn't be just as self-centered as the US. The part I thought was really funny was when some EU nations threatened to splinter the Internet if we didn't agree last week. They would just "close the doors." The fact that they thought they could pretty much says what needs to be said, I think. I can imagine all those Frenchmen having to make due with French porn...

on Oct 20, 2005

France, a nation where thousands of people die when the summer gets too hot,

Oh, Baker...such poor timing......New Orleans isn't in just sounds that way.

Better be careful with the racial jibes....they can and do always come back to bite you...

on Oct 20, 2005
"Better be careful with the racial jibes....they can and do always come back to bite you..."

Calling France racist is racist? Wow. A nation that is afraid of other cultures, of religious expression, history, etc., seems a strange place to shelter from critism, and the last bunch that I would want governing the Internet.

P.S. New Orleans was hit by a Cat 4 hurricaine. France was hit by survivable temperatures and bad environmental policies.

The point isn't France is evil, France can do whatever it wants in France, I don't care. The point is many of these nations have very dubious agendas that they have tried to impose internationally, and I believe that they would abuse governance of the Internet any way they could to further those ideals.
on Oct 20, 2005

No, claiming it's Govt clearly doesn't handle temp extremes causing people to die....extrapolated from the quote I used....compares well with the US Govt [at whatever level] that allows people to die in preventable floods.

France isn't so much 'racist' as 'arrogant', again something definitely NOT limited to one country's ethos...

I am absolutely CERTAIN that were ANY other country on the planet solely in charge of a global communication system as the US is then there'd be 250 million Americans feeling squeamish and vulnerable, too....

But they aren't, so they don't.

In a parallel universe.....who knows?....

on Oct 20, 2005
It's ours and we are keeping it!! do not like it?? make your own internet, let us see how well that one functions.

The whole world is jealous of the united staes and wants all we have.

A real american patriot,

on Oct 20, 2005
america's continual refusal to even contemplate discussing the kyoto protocol is probably the biggest threat to the world's enviroment...this thread is turning much too political...the french just have a different world view to yours, doesn't make either of you right or wrong...

everyone uses the internet...maybe more people should be given a chance to say how it is controlled...nobody is suggesting the america hands over control to iran, just that perhaps other voices could be heard....

i personally believe that things work fine as they are, but debate is always a positive thing

and, no, the whole world is not jealous of the united states
on Oct 20, 2005

Kyoto? Huh? 

The US doesn't really "control" the Internet anymore than I "control" the sidewalk that goes through my yard.  Sure, if the US really wanted to mess with it it could but as a practical matter, no one is going to touch it.

on Oct 20, 2005
Jafo and Baker, thanks for the comments...slightly off topic, but still....

Much of the world's "information assets" run on the Internet and those assets are, in one wise or another, controlled by companies based in the US. That makes some parts of the world nervous, not without justification. But if not the US, then who? Will anyone speak for the UN controlling it? I think not.

The point is that there is no more qualified nation or organization available.
on Oct 20, 2005
The point is that there is no more qualified nation or organization available.

The posts so far fail to distinguish several technical details that make the whole topic viable:

- the Internet itself was designed by the US military to be a network that could survive node loss by routing around dead connections
- BY DEFINITION the Internet is a distributed network with no central control and, once outside US territory, it IS effectively controlled by "foreign" countries, organizations and companies
- Early expansion of the Internet outside of US territory also involved distributed services that do not rely on a central authority (e.g., gopher, WAIS, etc.)
- HOWEVER services later tacked on (e.g., especially DNS) that have proven especially valuable for making the Internet usable to the "common folk" and (most importantly?) for common commercial activity have their core/root servers in the US
- DNS, by far the most important of these latter protocols, is strictly controlled and managed by the US government and ICANN, an organization that is ultimately only responsible to the US Commerce Department

The problem for other countries is that a hostile US government can effectively shut down Internet access that relies on DNS to their countries (or selective parts). While everything remains accessible by IP address, most people and many programs rely on name resolution to get any work done.

Part of this issue is actually inherent in some design choices (flaws, perhaps) in DNS. But considering how much business and people rely on Internet use now, it's certainly a fair point of contention that a possibly significant (and growing) portion of its economy is entirely at the whims of the US government.

People outside of the US can (and have) established alternate root servers, but true effectiveness requires global acknowledgement and cooperation (i.e., the key routers must defer to these new servers for name resolution). Even though the rest of the world is catching up (and in many cases overtaking) the US in terms of personal and business use of the Internet, currently it's just not possible to bully (i.e., by setting up alternate root servers and everyone else acknowledging them) the US into an alternate arrangement -- too much traffic, bandwidth and (to be frank) business/money sits in the US.
on Oct 21, 2005
The problem is if the rest of the world get too impatient and think the US is being unfair you could get the situation where the US internet can only see US sites and the rest of the world can only see sites outside of the US. Such a situation is not in anybodys best interest which is why some sort of compromise needs to be reached whether its as simple as saying the domains for countries come under the authority of that country but are administered by ICANN or something else.
on Oct 21, 2005
where are your arguments ??
cuz what i've just read is bull....
ok, not all Americans, just you !!!
on Oct 21, 2005
Ozzy, its true... the *majority* of the internets resources are centered in America, under the control of the government (even indirectly).
on Oct 21, 2005
sunwukong, I did not detail the Internet's origins from ARPANET simply because it is not germane to this issue. If anyone wants, they can read all about the history of the Internet here:

You further stated: "The problem for other countries is that a hostile US government can effectively shut down Internet access that relies on DNS to their countries (or selective parts)." I think that I made that point. Regarding an "alternate arrangement," my point is that there is NOT a viable alternative. Would anyone suggest that ICANN be forced to move to the Hague, for example, to promote fairness? Not really. The Internet works and we are all glad of that.

Except for maybe -OZZY-. Don't worry -OZZY-, you are free to express your opinions. As long, that is, as the Internet is under US control. If that control were to shift to Beijing or Pyongyang, well that might be a different case.

on Oct 21, 2005
yeah right, and in europe u can't express your opinion...
what irritates me is that u think americans are so much better...
you failed to give one good reason why, let's say europe cuz i'm from holland, can't control it. U say cuz it will be called Le internet or Das Internet and will be closed in august....where do you get that idea ? do you know anything about europe ??
and that's why i think all this is bull....
on Oct 21, 2005
I think people are people. Being an American, I can say that I do not think I am better and that many Americans walk aroung with blinders on in regards to how the world views us. I am friends with a number of people who moved here from Asia and Europe and I can honestly say that many of the times we have "helped" them, their opinion was "we don't want / need your help. Who asked you?".

But that is entirely off topic. The internet is evolving and someday may take this plunge into "U.N. Control". Nothing lasts forever.
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