Copyright 2005 Warren Publishing, Inc.


SEPTEMBER 13, 2005

SECTION: Vol.6, No.177

Read My Lips; No New Internet Governance at U.N., Gross Says

Lauding increased participation in the World Summit for the Information
Society's (WSIS) final phase in Tunis in Nov., State Dept.'s David Gross
nonetheless made clear Mon. the U.N. wouldn't take any more governing oversight
of the Internet than it has. Gross, who handles international communications
policy at the State Dept., with rank of ambassador, spoke alongside NTIA Dir.
Michael Gallagher at an event hosted by the Advisory Committee to the
Congressional Internet Caucus.

"The U.N. will not be in charge of the Internet, period," Gross said,
answering a question following his recitation of WSIS progress since its start.
Gross was initially skeptical of WSIS, seeing it as "another opportunity to beat
up on the United States," but was impressed at consensus from early summits on
issues including lowered telecom regulation and the importance of free
expression online. "It's really not fully appreciated" how many foreign govts.
want to embrace the Internet as an engine of economic growth and a better way to
deliver services: Countries are discussing "the things that we want to be in the
discussion globally." Some countries' "attempt to try to rein in" the Internet's
decentralized, open architecture at the first phase of WSIS in 2003 failed,
and Gross is "very optimistic we will find the path forward" in Tunis: "Not
talking about [controversial issues] doesn't make it go away."

The govt.'s goals for Tunis are: (1) Not to let victories slip away on
agreed-upon principles such as intellectual property rights, free expression and
the rule of law in Internet policy in each country. (2) "Understand better
where we're going with this" -- not just focus on process and especially not
creating new bureaucracies under the guise of additional discussion forums.


Though the Commerce Dept.'s concern recently voiced to ICANN over the
proposed .xxx TLD (WID Aug 17 p1) contributed to its stalling, Gross defended
Gallagher's action on behalf of Commerce, saying more fundamental issues haven't
been resolved anyway. Gross said he's "as much a zealot on the First Amendment
as anybody I know," but the U.S. position of not interfering with the free flow
of information is "a very singular one" among countries: "Even many close allies
believe the line should be drawn" further than the U.S. wants in favor of
censoring free expression online. From the start, online content has faced
"virtually no restrictions," so pressure to limit its flow by fighting the .xxx
TLD isn't surprising: "We would be naive to think the way we see the world" will
become the international consensus, he said. "We can talk to them about it...
but we can't stop" limitations elsewhere. "I categorically believe we are"
setting a good example for other countries through the govt.'s light touch on
Internet regulation, Gallagher added.

Few complaints about ICANN focus on its role in policy, Gallagher said. Most
countries are more concerned about how the group is managing their country code
TLDs and other technical matters: "We are seeing an opportunity to further
refine those things."

"The rest of the world is watching us," to decide how to formulate or tweak
their own Internet policies, Gallagher said. That's why it's important for the
private sector to be unified, and vocal, in the policy debate: "It's our private
sector that's working in their countries" to influence policies the U.S. govt.
has trouble affecting, he said. In turn, Congress can help the private sector
in its foreign lobbying by speaking with one voice in Internet legislation.
Gallagher said the continued negotiation of bilateral govt. agreements on
Internet policy should discourage a "knee jerk reaction [to] create another
worldwide bureaucracy." -- Greg Piper