US resists control of internet passing to UN agency

Dr Hamadoun Toure The UN's Dr Toure says any change to governance of the internet must be supported by all countries

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The US has confirmed it would resist efforts to put the internet under the control of the United Nations.

At present several non-profit US bodies oversee the net's technical specifications and domain name system.

They operate at arms-length from the US government but officially under the remit of its Department of Commerce.

There has been speculation that other nations will push for a change later this year, but they cannot force the US to comply.

The US has set out its position in documents filed with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) - the UN agency responsible for encouraging the development of communications technologies.

The ITU is hosting a conference in December in Dubai to which representatives from 178 nations have been invited to review the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR).

The ITR is a 1988 treaty which set out rules for how traffic should flow between different telecom networks, and how to calculate charges for traffic exchanged between carriers in different countries.

The rise of the internet and mobile devices has led to calls for it to be revised, but countries are expected to disagree over the changes needed.

The US's ambassador to the conference, Terry Kramer, outlined his worries in a statement published by the country's Department of State.

"The US is concerned that proposals by some other governments could lead to greater regulatory burdens being placed on the international telecom sector, or perhaps even extended to the internet sector," he wrote.

President Vladimir Putin Russia's President supports the idea of giving the ITU greater "control" over the internet

"The United States also believes that existing multi-stakeholder institutions, incorporating industry and civil society, have functioned effectively and will continue to ensure the health and growth of the internet and all its benefits."

Leaked documents

The ITU does not publish submissions by each country - leaving it up to the individual states to decide which material to release. But a site called has posted proposals leaked to it.

They include a submission from Russia suggesting the ITU could become responsible for allocating at least some of the internet's addresses as well as the "determination of the necessary requirements".

At present US-based Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) co-ordinates the codes and numbering systems, deciding which new internet address endings should be allowed as an alternative to .com. It then leaves it to ISPs (internet service providers) to assign individual addresses.

President Vladimir Putin has signalled Russia's final submission could go further. In 2011 he said he was keen to discuss "establishing international control over the internet using the monitoring and supervisory capabilities of the International Telecommunication Union".

The Russia Today news service has since reported that China and India had backed this stance.

No votes

But the ITU has made it clear that any changes to the treaty must have unanimous support, and it would block members trying to put any matter to a vote.

"We never vote because voting means winners and losers and you can't afford that," Dr Hamadoun Toure, the ITU's secretary-general told the BBC.

Dubai skyline The ITU conference will take place in Dubai from 3 to 12 December

"Whatever one single country does not accept will not pass."

He acknowledged that some countries were unhappy with the way Icann had looked after the internet address system.

"Some people are saying the governments are not consulted enough," he said.

But he played down the idea that there would be a serious effort to seize control of its functions and pass them to the ITU.

"Has anybody suggested to take responsibility from Icann? No, it's never been done. I truly believe there is a complementarity involved between our work - we can work together."


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  • Comment number 80.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    The religious right are not making headway in the US and are not the threat - corrupt global banking, pharma & defence industries call the shots.

    These are crocodile tears by the US gvmt-they don't care if the UN has the control as the same people that setup the UN have 'bought' power in the US.

    Besides they already monitor everything that their citizens do online.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Michael Lloyd, have you actually read the article? The US already manages he Internet. The proposal is that hat should change to allow the UN and others like Putin and China "regulate" it. The US, for all that you hate it, does "leave the Internet alone.". Do you really believe the repressive governments in Russia, China, the third world will do the same? Ever tried to use the Internet there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    The UN, the most corrupt, wasteful, useless organisation in history (unless it’s the EU).

    The USA the most greedy, arrogant, conceited, bellicose state in history (unless you read their version of history).

    No choice, pass it to my local Brownies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    14. keiff
    "They did not invent the 'net' Sir Tom Berners-Smith did"

    Oh, dear. It's hard to know where to start with that, isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    The regulation I speak of is the assignment of names and numbers, which itself is in the title of the organisation.

    If you don't have a number* you don't get on the internet. Simplest form of control possible.

    *IP address, given to you by your ISP which in turn received that number from a block assigned by say Nominet who will get that number from a block assigned by ICANN.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    I'm gonna say this slowly so that it's clear.


    Silly bunny - to quote a famous sci fi book "he who can destroy a thing controls it".. Now .. slowly for you in turn

    .. do.. you.. know.. just ,,how.. vulnerable..the internet.. is ?????

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    This thread reminds me of an episode of the IT Crowd when Jen borrowed 'the internet' for a presentation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Guys, put it this way. Can you still access the Pirate Bay? Can anyone with an ounce of determination get past the Great Firewall? Can you pick up a pay as you go handset and then go online and act in complete anonymity?

    Governments are only in control because they tell you they are. They might as well be trying to regulate air.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    There is always the implied threat to cut off a country from the service, the USA has through its commercial power made threats against other countries that have only come to light years later, one in particular against the UK when Nasser took over the Suez Canal, the American President threatened to destroy the pound on world markets if the UK doid not immediately pull out of the canal area.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.


    What I actually refer to is the fact that whatever "blocks" a government, or any other body, may try to impose on access can be circumvented. There is always another way around/over/under to reach your intended goal

    The regulation you speak of (I assume) is that of designating DNS, assigning suffix usage and associated day to day usage

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    5 Minutes ago

    Just want to provide some facts:

    Not fact myth. DARPA was developed by US universities to facilitate computers using different protocols to communicate using a common set of rules. Ethernet came later and as for resilience in a nuclear attack, dream on. It is now possible to "harden" fibre but a direct nuclear strike would damage most comms beyond use.

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    The internet is already a significant part of our social, cultural, political discourse and perhaps, the only place where true global, local and personal democracy thrives. It is a global system and should rightly be under UN oversight to prevent the whole world potentially being held to ransom by one single country at any time in the future.

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Russia and China are hardly beacons of democracy and free speech.
    The USA's no shining City on the Hill either. The Religious Right are making real headway there.
    The World Wide Web is out there, but national governments already seek to control their people's access. The big net companies kowtow to their pressures already.
    Security 'concerns' and the censorship of the market are real threats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    53. Phil.

    Apart from the handling of Wikileaks.

    Oh and type a search into Google, and do a search using another independent search engine (duck-duck-go etc....)

    I think you'll find we're pretty censored.

    Also, the fact you choose HYS to applaud internet freedom is quite ironic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    I'm not entirely sure where I stand on this. On the one hand I'd rather the net wasn't under the control of one country. But on the other hand the US government currently have little influence on the net, despite it being officially under their remit. I'm concerned that if control was given to the UN we would see far more political interference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    The whole point of the Internet is that no one controls it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.


    Since when does the internet even need to be 'regulated'?

    I like the Wild West aspect of the web

    The web needs regulation to make sure it holds together. The only question is how it should be regulated. At the moment regulation favours what appears to be freedom. With the US in charge its a matter of "better the devil you know".


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