More Lawmakers Back U.S. Control of Internet

By Andy Sullivan

Three lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives called on Friday for the Internet's core infrastructure to remain under U.S. control, essentially ICANN, echoing similar language introduced in the Senate earlier this week.

The resolution, introduced by two Republicans and one Democrat, aims to line up Congress firmly behind the Bush administration as it heads for a showdown with much of the rest of the world over control of the global computer network.

"Turning the Internet over to countries with problematic human-rights records, muted free-speech laws, and questionable taxation practices will prevent the Internet from remaining the thriving medium it has become today," said California Republican Rep. John Doolittle in a statement.

Doolittle introduced the resolution with Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Virginia Democratic Rep. Rick Boucher.

Countries including Brazil and Iran want an international body to oversee the addressing system that guides traffic across the Internet, which is currently overseen by a California nonprofit body -- ICANN -- that answers to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The European Union withdrew its support of the current system last month, and the issue is expected to come to a head at a U.N. summit meeting in Tunisia in November.

The Bush administration has made clear that it intends to maintain control.

If a settlement is not reached, Internet users in different parts of the globe could potentially wind up at different Web sites when they type an address into their browsers.

U.S. lawmakers have backed the Bush administration's stance, arguing that a U.N. group would stifle innovation with excessive bureaucracy and enable repressive regimes to curtail free expression online.

Top Republicans and Democrats on the House Commerce Committee sent a letter of support to the Bush administration earlier this month. In the Senate, Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman has introduced a resolution supporting the administration's stance.

"The United States is uniquely positioned in the world to protect the fundamental principles of free press and free speech, upon which the Internet has thrived," Goodlatte said in a statement.

The United States has not always taken a hands-off approach to Internet regulation. In August the Commerce Department asked the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the California body that oversees domain names, to postpone action on a proposed .xxx domain for sex sites.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Things are looking sort of grim for the countries which want to see a non-ICANN controlled, non-business dominated internet. It would appear that Vint Cerf gets to retain control unless some philanthropist(s) comes along to develop a new system of root servers, and encourage webmasters to go along with them. PAT]
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