WASHINGTON INTERNET DAILY
OCTOBER 19, 2005
Internet Could Face 'Grave Threat' at WSIS, Lawmaker Says
High-tech aficionados on Capitol Hill are talking Internet governance in the
run-up to next month's World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) meeting in
Tunisia. As the U.S. delegation readies for the Nov. 16- 18 summit, lawmakers
want to preserve the traditional U.S. role in overseeing Web operations despite
some international players' pleas to transfer control to the U.N.
With the State Dept. WSIS advisory committee meeting tomorrow (Thurs.), Sen.
Coleman (R-Minn.) floated a resolution as a unified way for legislators to
comment. "There is no rational justification for politicizing Internet
governance within a U.N. framework. Nor is there a rational basis for the
anti-U.S. resentment driving the proposal," Coleman said: "Privatization, not
politicization, is the Internet governance regime that must be fostered and
The Internet is "likely to face a grave threat" at WSIS and if policymakers
fail to act appropriately the U.S. risks forfeiting the "freedom and enterprise
fostered by this informational marvel," he said. The country could wind up
sacrificing access to information, privacy and protection of intellectual
property and that's not a risk he's prepared to take, Coleman said.
Coleman's resolution supports the 4 governance principles defined June 30 by
the Bush Administration: (1) Preserving the security and stability of the
Internet domain name and addressing system (DNS). (2) Recognizing govts.
legitimate interest in managing their own country code top-level domains (TLDs).
(3) Support for ICANN as the appropriate technical manager for DNS. (4)
Participation in continuing dialogue on Internet governance, with continued
support for market-based approaches and private sector leadership to guide the
The measure addresses the possibility that if Internet governance moves from
the U.S. to the U.N. or another body, the U.S. no longer would have more control
over data flow than nations that block access to information, stifle political
dissent and maintain outmoded communications structures. "Many aspects of
running the Internet have profound implications for competition and trade,
democratization and free expression," Coleman said: "We cannot stand idly by as
some governments seek to make the Internet an instrument of censorship and
political suppression." The resolution urges the Bush Administration to oppose
any proposal deviating from the core principles.
Coleman said he intended to push for a hearing before the WSIS meeting to
explore implications of politicized Internet governance. The lawmaker
previously highlighted the need to protect the Internet from the U.N. in a
Senate speech in July. Coleman said he planned to ask his Senate Foreign
Relations Committee colleagues to adopt extensive changes stemming from his
19-month Senate Investigations Subcommittee probe into the U.N. Oil-for-Food
Program. Coleman, a critic of the U.N.'s lack of progress, wants Congress to
help restore U.N. credibility and efficacy through greater openness,
accountability and oversight. "It is irresponsible to expand the U.N.'s
portfolio before it undertakes sweeping, overdue reform," Coleman said: "If the
U.N. was unable to properly administer the Oil-for-Food Program, I am afraid
what the Internet would look like under U.N. control."
Meanwhile, Rep. Goodlatte (R-Va.) met Tues. with EU Commission Pres. Jose
Manuel Barosso. The Congressional Internet Caucus co-chairman raised concerns
over an apparent EU endorsement of the U.N.'s bid for Internet governance.
Others in attendance were Sens. Bennett (R- Utah), Roberts (R-Kan.) and Smith
(R-Ore.), plus House Judiciary Chmn. Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Reps. Brady (R-
Tex.), English (R-Pa.), Kolbe (R-Ariz.), Levin (D-Mich.), Mica (R-Fla.) and
Oxley (R-Ohio). Goodlatte planned to introduce a House resolution similar to
Coleman's later in the day, a spokeswoman told us.
"Until recently, the EU had not endorsed such proposals, and it is appalling
that the EU would move in this direction," Goodlatte said: "The EU should
realize that the United States protects the Internet through freedom. The U.S.
is uniquely positioned in the world to protect the fundamental principles of
free press and free speech, upon which the Internet has thrived." The more
govts. are entangled in governance, the more red tape and "overly burdensome
regulations that huge bureaucratic agencies bring" will increase, he said.
Barosso, was to meet with Pres. Bush, Secy. of State Condoleezza Rice and other
top Administration officials.
Coleman and Goodlatte aren't alone in their resolution-slinging. Goodlatte's
Caucus Co-Chmn. Boucher (D-Va.) told Washington Internet Daily U.S. Internet
governance is working and he and Rep. Doolittle (R-Cal.) may introduce a
resolution soon. "The Internet is functioning very effectively through the
current system for root server control and top level domain name assignments,"
Boucher said: "One cannot argue with the success of the current system as the
Internet expands globally by orders of magnitude." ICANN also operates solidly
but the group could benefit from more structured avenues for critics to express
concerns over how TLDs are assigned, he said. Boucher said it's not an argument
to change ICANN's board structure, which is international, but said he wonders
if a formal way of making ICANN more accessible could be worked into its
State Dept. international communications & information coordinator David
Gross said he's "always very gratified when we get strong expressions of support
on the Hill." The unified message on Internet governance being sent to the
Administration from both sides of the aisle is "particularly heartwarming," he
told us. A joint letter from House lawmakers sent Oct. 5 to Gross and NTIA Dir.
Michael Gallagher also showed support for preserving the U.S. lead in managing
the Web. Endorsements by lawmakers and Internet industry players add teeth to
international talks, he said. "In our discussions with Europeans and others, we
point out the fact that the U.S. is really quite united on this issue," Gross
said: "The Hill, the president, the Administration and others in industry all
seem to be of one mind here. It's a very important signal for the rest of the
world." -- Andrew Noyes
Copyright 2005 Warren Publishing, Inc.