World Summit of the Information Society
At the request of the UN, the International Union of Telecommunications (IUT) has organized the second World Summit of the Information Society, to be held in Tunis from 16 to 18 November 2005. Some 14,000 delegates and more than 50 heads of state, including Kofi Annan, are due to attend.
Originally WSIS had the aim of reducing the technological gap between rich and poor countries and ensure freedom of expression online but, as usual when the UN is involved, the agenda has been hijacked (even the unfortunate choice of venue suggests it) and will instead concentrate in trying to end American monopoly on internet world traffic and domain names management.
At the present time, and since 1998, the worldwide web is managed by the Internet Corporate Body for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit private copyright corporation based in Los Angeles, subject to Californian law and under the control of the Department of Commerce of the United States (DoC). ICANN is the big traffic controller of the network. It controls a system of thirteen powerful computers, called “root servers”, installed in the United States (four in California and six near Washington), in Europe (Stockholm and London) and Japan (Tokyo).
Without going into technical details, the problem is that everyone wants a slice of the pie. Not for money, but for control.
The European Union criticizes the present state of affairs but - typically - offers no alternative other than echoing the UN. The UN is clamoring that the Internet must be controlled by an international body. Unfortunately, the more vocal nations on this issue are China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Zimbabwe, &c... you see my point.
"So there's one set of countries, anchored by Iran, Cuba and China, that would like to see some process by which governments of the world have a much larger hand in controlling the shape of the internet." [and in suppressing dissent and freedom of expression and information - n.ed.]
To be fair, ICANN (or the US) does not exercise control over the Internet, but the apparent American hegemony upsets many. There is certainly room for change; however, it is doubtful that any kind of agreement will be reached in Tunis at this time.
Paraphrasing Churchill one could say that the present situation is the worst one except all others are worse.