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Internet Governance Squabble Expected To Hijack U.N. Meeting

Growing resentment among other nations over U.S. control over the Internet is expected to spill over into a summit scheduled for mid-November. Both sides remain far apart on who should run the Web.

The escalating scrap over control of the Internet that has pitted the U.S. government against the rest of the world is expected to take over the agenda at the World Summit on the Information Society, a United Nations meeting scheduled for November.

The original objective for the UN summit, set for Nov. 16-18 in Tunis, Tunisia, included a discussion of bringing the Internet to developing countries. But that will be overshadowed by the simmering debate over whether oversight of the Internet should be shared by governments around the world – or remain the responsibility of one in particular, the United States.

“This summit has been hijacked by the Internet governance people,” says Allen Z. Miller, senior vice president for global affairs at the Information Technology Association of America. “We’re adamantly opposed to U.N. involvement in the Internet.”

The association believes less-developed countries should focus on improving conditions at home that would make the Internet more likely to thrive -- like basic technical education, a sound legal environment and financial markets open to investment by foreign companies.

In the struggle over who owns the Internet, the United States currently holds all the supervision cards through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Washington doesn’t plan on relinquishing its authority, despite objections from the United Nations, the European Union and such countries as Brazil, China, Cuba and Iran, who have all said recently that they would like a bigger say.

ICANN, a nonprofit corporation based in California, is the behind-the-scenes body that manages the Internet’s address book. It oversees the domain name and addressing system and makes sure that users of the Internet around the world can find all valid addresses.

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