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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  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    well the USA is not doing a bad job and as the UN cannot fin dit ouw ass most of the time lket the USA keep doing a good job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.


    Could the United Nations not just, you know, build another one?

    tee hee... new protocols, new addressing - and better format. hey lets call it BetaNet, I'm sure everyone will go for it,

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    I would be very wary of handing any kind of influence over the internet to the UN. Many of its members are far from democratic and see the internet as a threat to their totalitarian ways. They would bust their guts to try to castrate it if they could. The US is democratic and is not threatened by the internet. Leave things as they are!

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.


    Yes and the US haven't blocked it to their general population have they. "

    Because they can't. Not because they wouldn't. They tried with Federal agencies. Senior politicians openly calling for the assassination of Assange isn't exactly democratic either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    My usual reponse to "US resists control of" anything is to froth slightly at the mouth in anger.

    However, the US has been an excellent custodian of the Internet as we know it, and I have no desire for things to change. Putting control in the hands of others will most likely lead only to meddling, and probably the type of meddling which puts restrictions on all of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    "But on the other hand the US government currently have little influence on the net"

    Untrue, they have the keys to the underlying infrastructure support architecture, and can if they wish exercise far more control than most people would imagine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    And you wonder why China, Russia and some other countries routinly block internet access to some sites? No state should be allowed to contraol the internet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Better the devil you think you might know than the devils you definitely don't?

    Great thing the internet, but like GPS, I suspect it may all end in tears when whoever ends up in control decides it doesn't do what they want it to do.... we are now too dependant on it

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Governance of the tech standards used to run the web need to be controlled and agreed internationally, same for assigning blocks of IP addresses.

    Root domains should always be a country identifier and that countries laws govern miss-use and transactions.

    So for example if someone in China is selling goods through a .uk domain hosted in the US, UK law governs the transactions not Chinese or US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Governments will always want to impose control over as much of the Internet that they think falls under their areas of relevance as possible. That is why it is of the utmost importance that even any rudimentary controls that people think seem to exist at the moment should be resisted, removed, and never allowed to return. Internet freedom is the part of the public's protection against government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    The fact that Putin and China want UN control is enough to convince me that it's a bad idea. Look at their behaviour over Syria to see the problems they cause the UN and think how they could paralyse the future of the web should UN get control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    The current system works fine. It is unsurpising Russia and the Chinese would like to encourage greater control over the internet seeing as they both are repressive regimes and would probably want to limit freedom of speech such as my own comment here. The net was designed to be free and acccessible to all, personally I believe it is a product the Americans designed so they should govern it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    155.Ex Tory Voter
    "A show trial is a show trial. Wikileaks is on-line *despite* the endeavours of the US, not because of them. Had other countries kow-towed to the US, Wikileaks would be off-line."

    Yes and the US haven't blocked it to their general population have they.
    My argument still stands in that a US citizen can criticize his government online. Do a Google search FGS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    @ 81. DisplacementActivity (Voted -3)

    "The US does not control the internet. The operators control the internet, and there are tens of thousands of them, all over the world. The US controls the *directory*, via DNS."

    The only informed comment here, presumably from a fellow software engineer. If more than 1% of people understood the internet beyond facebook this would be top voted & editors pick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Simon was right, you are not. The US constitution is under severe attack and is largely ignored by federal government.


    From the UN declaration on human rights (1945):
    Article 29 section 3:
    These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the UN

    How many people want to start adding 2 and 2 together?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    the goverments of the world HAVE TOO MUCH CONTROL.over us, the internet is a wonderfull tool.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    @ 56. xyriach - This comment has been removed by the moderators for breaking the terms and conditions.

    xyriach's right, don't down rate the comment. The problem is unless you know the ways round the system that governments can actually apply to attempt to control internet use, then it is practically police-able because to most users their access can be controlled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    "The idea of "governance" and "control" of the internet sounds scary, and very against the free uncontrolled ethos. Who are these people?"

    "These people" are people like Richard Haass. Google him, read his book entitled 'The Opportunity', learn how he and others like him want national sovereignty replaced by control by global bodies. These are the people we need to remove from positions of power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    The net has to be free of government controls.
    With the general attack on tax havens, these small islands and nations should probably make themselves internet hubs of freedom. At the simplest make it perfectly legal to file share to and from servers in their lands. It harms no one and is less underhand than tax haven habits aiding the rich not to pay their way in any of their home lands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    150.Simple Simon
    "Hahahaha - i laughed so hard when i read this"

    That'll be the weed Simon.


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