WGIG report draws U.S. fire

By David
August 3, 2005

The U.N. Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) recently issued its final report. The report makes a number of recommendations and proposals aimed at, among other things, creating a global multi-stakeholder forum (linked to the U.N.) to address Internet-related public policy issues and fostering full participation in Internet governance arrangements by developing countries.

However, the report instantly drew the fire of U.S. policymakers, who have no intention of passing the United States’ role in Internet governance to the U.N. Indeed, Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) issued a strongly worded statement following the WGIG’s report release:

[The senator] submitted a statement into the Congressional Record denouncing [the report]. Since its inception and creation in the United States, the U.S. has assumed the historic role of overseeing the Internet’s growth and has overseen its development. The U.N. taskforce report suggests that in addition to terminating the U.S.’s leadership role, the authority and functions of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit organization overseen by the U.S. Department of Commerce, should be transferred as well. Senator Coleman strongly opposes these measures.

“My probe of the U.N. as Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations revealed management that was at best, incompetent, and at worst corrupt,” said Coleman. “The first priority for the United Nations must be fundamental reform of its management and operations rather than any expansion of its authority and responsibilities. The Internet has flourished under U.S. supervision, oversight, and private sector involvement. This growth did not happen because of increased government involvement, but rather, from the opening on the Internet to commerce and private sector innovation. Subjecting the Internet and its security to the politicized control of the UN bureaucracy would be a giant and foolhardy step backwards.”

[…] “The U.S. is willing to work with other countries that have an interest in the management of their own country code domains but UN control is out of the question. We will continue a dialogue with the rest of the world on these issues as we go forward.”

Other relevant U.S. authorities have also shown no sign that they are open to acting on the recommendations in WGIG’s report. Indeed, a recent New Scientist article points out how the Department of Commerce recently reiterated that the U.S. is “committed to taking no action that would have the potential to adversely impact the effective and efficient operation of the DNS and will therefore maintain its historic role in authorizing changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file.”

We will, of course, keep you posted as events warrant.