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Delegates at a meeting in Geneva on Monday failed to reach an agreement on who should control the internet's addressing system. The meeting, which is being held in preparation of the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis next month, degenerated into a farce when delegates argued over the right of the US to control the internet's addressing system.

Countries of the world lined up either for or against the US retaining control over the management of the net, which is currently the responsibility of ICANN under the authority of the US Department of Commerce. Standing firmly against the US is the European Union, which is joined by countries such as Russia, Iran and China.

For its part, the EU is supporting countries like Iran, which said that it was concerned that the US could effectively cut it off from the internet if it chose to at any time. The EU has called for internet governance to be handed over to the UN's International Telecommunications Union.

The new EU proposal is based on recommendations made by the UN-sponsored Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) in July to establish an internet governance model that wasn't linked specifically to one country. Meanwhile, supporting the US are countries like Australia, the UK and Latin American countries such as Argentina and Chile. These countries have rejected the EU proposal with the Australian delegates warning of a "hierarchical and bureaucratic" approach to internet governance if the UN were allowed to assume responsibility for domain names and IP addresses.

Though heavily criticised, ICANN has more or less been in charge of the DNS since 1997, when the US Department of Commerce handed over limited control, in the hope that ICANN would internationalise the net. Under a 1998 Memorandum of Understanding, the US government by 2006 was to disentangle itself from internet management entirely but the government announced in July of this year that it would not now be passing on ultimate control to ICANN.

It is likely that this debate will continue into next month's summit in Tunis, where the issue will be discussed in further detail.

Copyright © 2005, ENN

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