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Airlines Only Winners at Internet Summit

A bitter confrontation over Internet governance was averted at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunisia as a last-minute deal was struck Tuesday. Techworld reports:

The United States has prevailed in the controversial fight over Internet governance and will retain overall control of the Internet’s DNS, root servers and ICANN for the foreseeable future.

Rather than the new body or oversight body that many countries had been pushing for, a deal was finally struck that will see the creation of a new Internet Governance Forum (IGF) comprising governments and public and civil society but, crucially, will not have decision-making powers.

At the same time, governments also agreed to work within existing structures, meaning that plans to give part of the Internet’s stewardship to another body were also stymied. Instead ICANN will remain in general overall control of the Internet and other countries will have – at the moment at least – work within its Governmental Advisory Committee.

I’m not convinced this is a victory for the United States (and it is hardly the “clean knockout” for the U.S. that Red Herring proclaims), even though the Internet will not fracture immediately and there won’t be the new 800-pound UN body the EU wanted.  On the other hand, it isn’t the “U.S. caves” scenario PC Advisor imagines either.  No, the creation of the IGF is a vague outcome that lets people fill in the blanks with their interpretation.  The only clear winners are the airlines, which get to sell another 10,000 business- and first-class seats for the 2006 IGF meeting in Greece.  And I suppose you could include the bureaucrats that get to sit in them in the win column, too – they always come out okay.

Right now, the IGF exists to get the world used to the idea of UN regulation and taxation of the Internet, much the way Commander in Chief exists to get the public used to Hillary in the Oval Office.

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Mr. Moffat is a freelance writer in Bethesda, Md.

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