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 220.

    The Internet..
    Invented by Britain.. and subsequently appropriated by the good old USA..
    Add it to a long long long list of such things claimed to being from America..
    The movable tail fin allowing supersonic flight control
    The light bulb
    Just get used to it. If you were the USA, why would you want to relinquish overall control?

    We just lost because of our investors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    @205 'farkyss'
    Isn't everything you say online on permanent record - somewhere?

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Simply add the prefix 'UN' to the following words:

    - controlled
    - regulated
    - safe

    And that's what you'll get.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    195. I'd say you're living in Cloud Cuckoo Land if you think your online activity IS constantly monitored. It stands to reason that monitoring would be targeted.

    That said, I don't see much evidence that criticising the US government leads to a visit from the FBI Party Wagon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    @199 - DNS is not the internet! You can still use the internet without DNS, which is little more than a glorified phone book, converting names to numbers. It's good, because it's easier to remember than, but the latter works equally well without DNS. This only fails when a host-header is required for the site.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it - the US-based bodies like ICANN do a good job and should be allowed to carry on.

    If this changes then consider this UN agency (though I'm pretty sure it would be worse).

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    Absolute & Capital NO. The UN should concentrate on what it was set up to do which is to ensure peace all over the world and to uphold human dignity and rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    "And we need to be protected, as people of the world, from too much government intervention in life"

    Much too late to prevent that. All that's left now is to fight it and try to reverse it. The way to do it is to strengthen (in some cases bring back) the national sovereignty that has been weakened beyond recognition. Global cooperation does not require globalisation and integration of societies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.


    Read it again and read between the lines. Whoever controls the Internet will control the world. And boy don't they know it,

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Control of internet is not so important as controlling satelites which thr internet depends on

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    I think if we *are* this dependant on the Internet for day-to-day life (which is fine; it would make so many aspects of life so much easier if we all had Internet access), it is strange to be comfortable with one Internet controlled by one nation. But I don't think the answer is to sequester the existing Internet. I think it's to make A MILLION INTERNETS and keep them in a bunker somewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    Those people worrying about governance and control (and the editor making his/her pick) have misunderstood this article. This is not about control of content. It is about having someone responsible for defining who has which address in the Internet community so that always gives me the BBC. Scary? I think not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    The UN? In 'control'? What a silly idea!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    @194 'PatBenatar'
    Yes, you do have to worry about lams dry food presentations. Not to mention that cats are very independant creatures not particularly popular with barking dogmatic politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    @56-xyriach Are you foolish enough to think that it can't? Unless your internet (being two or more connected networks) is running point to point across a private circuit it can be controlled. The ISP network can permit or block anything to the wider Internet regardless of protocol. Your view seems to be "I connect from point A to point B", forgetting about the multiple gateways inbetween.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    Anyway, getting back on topic. This is really about control and taxation. Whomever holds the reigns, both the UK and the US are intent on monitorring everything you do. Freedom of speech is now a myth.

    Talk to your mp about the DRAFT COMMUNICATIONS BILL, get them to make clear their position on this bill which will record everything you do online! Let's get it pulled down!

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    The Internet "belongs" to no-one. It is a linked global communications network for the people. The fact that US military, banking systems, governments use it is irrelevant. The Internet is ours and there should be no "control" by any country. Control leads to suppression and loss of free speech. And we need to be protected, as people of the world, from too much government intervention in life

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    The UN's' inability to control events' is due to the 5 Permanent Members of the Security Council having a veto over any action.
    Any resolution that is perceived to be against any of the 5's national interests can be and is vetoed.
    It was built into the very foundation of the UN.
    The M.E. stews because of the US, Russia and China's use of the veto.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    It seems uncomfortable to think that the US "oversees" the global internet. Surely it should be free from political control?

    But...rather the US oversees it that the UN, through which some countries that thrive on censorship (the likes of China, Iran & most Muslim-majority countries, & even Russia) are likely to diminish internet freedom. Current arrangements are the lesser of two evils.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    You may believe in the 'American dream' and that the US is a free country, but in the real world, theyre only free to do as theyre told. a 5000 word/page tirade against the US government would, in reality, be met by a knock on the door from an agency.
    your misconception of freedom is sweet - i just want to pinch your little cheeks


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