Government showdown could break up Internet, experts warn
Date: Monday, November 14, 2005 @ 22:19:03 GMT
Topic: General

A tense dispute over US control of the Internet in the run-up to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) could eventually lead to the break-up of the global network and hamper seamless browsing, officials warned Monday.

The warning came as the United States told EU participants at negotiations on Internet governance that it was determined to maintain its oversight over the technical and administrative infrastructure at the root of the network.

In a letter seen by AFP, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez called on the British presidency of the European Union to drop its proposal for an international alternative.

"We ask the EU to reconsider its new position on Internet governance and work together with us to bring the benefits of the information society to all," the United States wrote.

A European diplomat, who declined to be named, said the letter was tantamount to "an attempt at intimidation".

Robert Shaw of the UN's International Telecommunication Union, said: "Since the positions are so polarised we may end up with a fractured Internet."

Either the search for a "democratic" international solution prevails, or the Internet could fragment into a multitude of networks before an eventual international coordination mechanism sticks them back together, he added.

Late Monday, the chairman of the negotiations, Janis Karklins of Finland, asked government negotiators to examine a new draft compromise to try to resolve their three-year deadlock before the summit, which begins on Wednesday.

The outcome could determine who eventually controls the Internet's technical and administrative infrastructure, which allows the computer network to function worldwide...

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As the United States and Europe prepare to slug it out over the ownership of the Internet at the upcoming United Nations conference on information technology, there is growing concern that the World Wide Web is being excessively politicized, and that might hamper its innovative driving force.
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