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EU deal threatens end to US dominance of internet

Last-minute talks at PrepCom3

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Ambassador Porto clarified that point further: "Nowadays our voting system in Brazil is based on ICTs [information and communication technologies], our tax collection system is based on ICTs, our public health system is based on ICTs. For us, the internet is much more than entertainment, it is vital for our constituencies, for our parliament in Brazil, for our society in Brazil." With such a vital resource, he asked, "how can one country control the Internet?"

With only a day left in the conference, enormous pressure has been put on delegates to come to agreement. The US however has refused to budge from its position dating back to July where it said it would "maintain its historic role" overseeing the DNS.

Despite suggestions of concessions, and the promise of talks, the US has not put anything on the table and one analyst told us that people had simply grown sick of the unfulfilled promises.

There must be change

As even the Chinese delegate Yang Xiaokun explained to us: "You cannot come to a meeting like this saying something is non-negotiable. You must show flexibility and compromise." Asked whether there were any unbreakable rules for the Chinese at the conference, he gave only one: "There must be change." That same message has been reiterated time and again in the past 11 days in Geneva.

And so it was the EU that finally broke ranks and spent Wednesday night and all Thursday in meetings with other governments trying to cut a deal. Brazil said these had "brought us closer together"; China agreed that the meeting had gone well. Iran said there were some very positive moves. The UK representative David Hendon consistently promised to give us a few words but was promptly pulled off again to another meeting.

And so with the UK having to return to all 25 EU member states to go through the Likeminded Group's proposals, and then return to discuss changes, it will be a late night for many delegates.

Plus, of course, the deal may still fall through. Mr Hendon made it clear that the Brazilian requests went "substantially beyond what I am authorised to negotiate".

Even with agreement however, the head of ICANN denied it would see the existing internet overseeing corporation replaced. The deal was simply a way for governments to seize more control of the overseeing body, Paul Twomey told us, something that he warned would lead the way for greater politicalisation of a technical function.

Nevertheless with just one day remaining, the pressure to seal a deal is intense, and it looks increasingly likely that by 5pm Swiss time on Friday 30th September 2005, the Unites States will be negotiated out of control of the internet. ®

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