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European internet registries are preparing a fight-back against the US government following the latter's surprise decision to keep overall control of the "root zone file" that defines the internet's basic set-up.

Despite an increasing number of newspaper articles - all from US media organisations - claiming that the internet community is happy to let the US government continue its role, a recent meeting of registries from across Europe begs to differ.

Instead, those registries have agreed to build, test and install a new automated system for changing vital infrastructure information, thereby removing the US government's ability to meddle in the process.

The process is being pushed by Paul Kane, the head of CENTR - an organisation representing the majority of the world's top-level domains. Kane was quick to point out that the US government had done an excellent checking function on the internet's "root" since 1998 (when it first unexpectedly staked its claim), but noted that the US government's new "principles" state quite clearly that rather than "check" the function of the root - as it does now - it will "authorise" it.

He also claimed that the US' sudden change in position "has not gone down well in European government circles".

Kane asked the floor at a meeting of worldwide top-level domain owners whether they wished to have the ability to make changes to their own domains by themselves. Half the room raised their hands. He then asked who was willing to let the US government authorise those changes on their behalf. Not a single hand went up.

The automation plan will use existing and proven technologies and protocols to depoliticise the root by making it a purely technical matter, Kane said. He added that 23 registries had already agreed to run a test-bed for the new service, which should be up and running by October this year.

ICANN's contract for running the root files (through organisation IANA) ends in March 2006, by which point the world registries hope to have a full report on their alternative, automated process.

A website covering the while process will be set up at www.shared-responsibility.net soon. ®

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