Last updated: December 12, 2012 - 9:35am
Hopes rose on Dec 11 for a compromise agreement that would keep intrusive government regulation of the Internet from being enshrined in a global treaty. The new draft was greeted positively by a broad swath of delegates to the conference and came as a surprise to many who had been frustrated by the deadlock gripping the event over the weekend.
A majority of the more than 150 countries represented at the conference had been willing to officially extend the mission of the United Nations agency to the Internet, while the Americans, most Europeans and some other advanced economies wanted to limit the ITU to oversight of international phone calls and other means of communication. The issue is coming to a head now because the ITU is revamping its treaty for the first time since 1988, before the World Wide Web took shape and became an economic, cultural and political force usually free from international oversight.
The compromise-in-progress would move most Internet elements from the treaty itself to a separate, U.N.-style "resolution" that is not binding on the countries, delegates said. Among the remaining provisions in the draft is a tentative assertion that countries could choose to "manage the naming, numbering, addressing and identification resources used within their territories for international telecommunications." That could be interpreted as including the right to assign Web addresses, which is currently controlled by ICANN, a United States-based nonprofit under contract to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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