ITU Would Be Happy to Replace ICANN

Reuters reports that,

U.N. agency says it’s ready to govern the Net:The United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union is ready to take over the governance of the Internet from the United States, ITU head Yoshio Utsumi said on Friday.

The United States has clashed with the European Union and much of the rest of the world over the future of the Internet. It currently manages the global information system through a partnership with California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, better known as ICANN.

“We could do it if we were asked to,” Utsumi told a news conference. The U.N. agency’s experience in communications, its structure and its cooperation with private and public bodies made it best-placed to take on the role, he said.

While the ITU’s desire to replace ICANN has been an open secret for years, this is the clearest declaration yet from the ITU’s rather outspoken leader. The official line until now has been much softer.

As far as I can tell, the US government mistrusts the ITU for various complicated telecoms-related related reasons I’ve never fully grasped. That’s just as well, as the ITU is no friend to impecunious NGOs, who are at best third-class participants in its deliberations, and certainly never participants as of right, only suffrage.

“Washington has made clear that it would oppose any such move, despite widespread demands for changes in the current system.

We will not agree to the United Nations taking over management of the Internet,” said David Gross, a U.S. Department of State official attending a two-week conference preparing for a U.N. World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia in November.

Reading all this, one canny observer on a list I follow remarked, “The secret to good comedy is timing.”

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4 Responses to ITU Would Be Happy to Replace ICANN

  1. Melinda says:

    I think that the press coverage of this is not very clear that what’s at issue is governance of the namespace, not governance of “the internet” (which encompasses a huge range of technologies, many of which will undoubtedly float into the ITU’s crosshairs at some point).

    The ITU is trying to stay relevant as the world switches from circuits to packets. The US government hates what’s going on for a variety of reasons, ranging from a general loathing for the UN (the ITU-T is a UN agency) to a general loathing for nationalized telecomm systems (which many member states have) to a proprietary sensibility towards the network (“Americans invented the internet”). Everybody hates ICANN but they hate the ITU more, and at an operational level there’s a sense that the ITU lacks the expertise to provide the kind of secure, rock-solid service required of the root servers. I’m not sure that’s a reasonable bias – in fact I’m pretty sure it’s not. The whole thing has a Godzilla vs. Mothra flavor to it.

  2. jvn says:

    good point + “ready to govern the net” and “We could do it if we were asked to” don’t equate to quite the same thing 😉

  3. Jonathan says:

    This is an interesting discussion. I just returned from an ITU meeting in Geneva, where ITU-R was hashing out stuff in the wireless world. On the one hand, I can see how handing this over to a contentious international group could make for more problems. On the other, an image of the ITU as an organization that can’t get anything done on good ideas would be a mistaken one.

    So overall, I’d like to see the top-level management of the internet’s DNS system handled by an international body.

  4. Joseph Savirimuthu says:

    This podcast from The Register

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