Why should the UN "control" the internet? Why not?

In this thread gouda linked to a few articles concerning the EU’s attempt to have “control” of the internet handed over by the US to the UN. An example is this article. In a nutshell, there is a move to wrest the internet from the US to place it in the hands of the UN.

Keeping in mind this isn’t the Pit, I’ll just say I trust very little the UN does with anything they are entrusted with. But that has little to do with the purpose of this thread. So I’m honestly going to keep an open mind in reading responses to this. (No, really. Just trust me) :slight_smile:

So from what I understand, in the simplest terms, is the “control” should be somehow transferred from the US to the UN. Here’s where the questions arise. First let me say that I use the quote marks since it seems just about every country in the world has host servers. Secure and unsecured.

If Russia has a network set up offline any network “controlled” by the US (and they do, we don’t have unfettered access to their defense systems) they should certainly be able to handle what the internet does by doing it on their own. Same with any of the EU countries. What is the “control” the US has over the internet that any other country can’t reproduce? It can’t be lack of tech know-how. The fundamentals of the internet are seemingly known by millions.

I know that ICANN is somehow involved, and I’ll slog through those links. But suspecting it’ll be a highly tech-intensive endeavor, I also wanted to post this to get the argument in layman’s terms.

Decades ago the US, with a big boost from the Army, came up with a practical use of networking to keep information flowing should a major city(s) be obliterated. Simplified, of course, but how would you word it with one sentance?

Anyway, I’ve never seen even a joking argument that the US didn’t invent the internet as we know it today. (Save the Gore jokes, heard 'em). So why should the US give up whatever “control” we have of it? It’s ours, [Bob Zany]Bay-Bay[/BZ]!

There are Islamic sites that post screeds and videos of killing people for political causes. They somehow are accessable over networks. Presumedly over what we know as the internet. There are sites that will explain, in detail, not only how to build a nuclear bomb, but where to but the supplies. If the US really controlled the internet, why not just shut the sites down?

I know I have to be missing something in this, hence the thread.

Why should the UN be given whatever control over the internet the US is claimed to have? The US made the concept feasable and profitable. (Maybe part of the answer.) How is the web suffering and what about the internet is being held back due to control of the concept?

The most obvious thing I can think of is use of the basic domains .com, .org, .gov, etc. When you type those, you’ll automatically be directed to US sites, whereas someone from the uk would usually have to type .co.uk or such, for instance.

As I understand it, these sorts of standards are set by a small corporation in Massachussets, which of course isn’t democratically accountable to much of anyone, but that’s about the most practical consequence I know of.

And upon actually reading your article, it looks like that might not be what they’re talking about.

I’m going to suggest that you do look in to ICANN, W3C, the Internet Engineering Task Force and other such organizations. This is kind of a complicated debate, and it’s not really something you can have without a reasonable knowledge of the history and parties involved.

6 years and 2 of your 154 posts are spent on my thread? I’m honored here. I am. I was thinking about the .com, .org, etc part of it. I remember a few years (maybe only a couple?) ago Tua-something-or-other was granted the tag .tv which quickly was flush with money from television networks buying rights to use it. I assume the US had something to do with “granting” it, but I’m still confused why we have the authority of assigning these suffixes.

For instance, with Canada and the UK, what limits them from just naming sites bbc.eng or cbc.can? That furthers my question of .com et al and “control” of the internet. If the US has the power to tell even major countries what addresses they can use, doesn’t that weigh in on the US’ right to maintain whatever control we may have on the network? If we have that much control of the web, and we invented it (I’m not trying to bluster or brag, just pointing out apparent fact), why should the US give it up?
Again, the technology to create an international network of servers is well known throughout the world now. Maybe a better question is why is the world so beholden to how the US runs their part of it? Wouldn’t a network of cable/fiber-optic lines in any other country do the same functions given a base of servers?

I can admit right now there may be some simple fundamental reason the rest of the world depends on the US running the show, but I don’t understand how. Maybe this should be tagged as half GQ? I really want to know why this is such a big deal.

even sven, you posted while I was typing. I’ll look into those issues as well. I’m just hoping to get some common language answers to this without PhD dissertations. And if there are, hell, it’s Great Debates! If anyone wants to get into the nuts and bolts of this, I hope they do to give a comprehensive argument for either side. I just ask it’s written in a way that most can understand.

Thanks again for the leads.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Personally I don’t trust the EU to handle the Internet farther than I can throw a fat Bruxelle based bureaucrat. And what would they want with this control should they get it? The UN would turn it into a massive centralised bureaucratic nightmare. The EU would probably start taxing the Internet. China wants to keep tap on and censure political dissidents. Brazil and India wants censure porn sites. The Middle East wants to censure words they feel insults Islam. Tax and censure, is that really what we want to turn the Internet into? There’s nothing that hinder anyone from setting up some competing network if they want. If China doesn’t like the frank political talk of the Internet they can bugger off and create their own little controlled network. Microsoft tried it once. They failed miserable. But if China or someone else wants a go, there’s nothing stopping them.

There’s nothing that demands that .COM or .ORG or .NET sites to be directed to US sites. I have both .COM and .NET sites that point to Danish sites. Don’t know about .GOV. I suppose .MIL are for the US military only.

This issue is more one of principle, I believe. Certain policies (of particular interest, the delegation of TLDs) are controlled by ICANN, a corporation under US law, i.e. the law of one particular country. The US Department of Commerce, i.e. the government of one particular country, exerts a degree of control on ICANN.

Up to now this non-Copernican setup has not led to any egregious instances of abuse of this control. From a practical point of view this state of affairs could continue.

Theoretically, though, people all over the world are subject to policies of a government that is not accountable to them (which is as it should be. The US government is not accountable to me. The flip side of this should be that the US government should have no control whatsoever over me.) An UN agency, hovever, is indirectly accountable to me via my country as an UN member. Theoretically, the US government could make ICANN delete any country’s TLD entry from the DNS’s root servers, something that could only be counteracted by fracturing the DNS (a Very Bad Thing). A Copernican solution for Internet governance, where the central resources are not controlled by any particular country, would mean that any such measures would need a majority of UN member states as opposed to just one country’s decision.

As for particular countries’ policy on content, these can be implemented and are in fact implemented without involving the central institutions of Internet governance, by using the respective country’s legal system and technical resources (as in the Great Chinese Firewall). Of course extremists will call for content policies to be implemented globally, but IMO extremists are less likely to be in control of a majority in the very diverse UN than they are to be in control of one particular country’s government.

I don’t know exactly what the issue is, but I do know it’s been around for a while; it was over a year ago that I first heard about the UN wishing to take ‘control’ of the internet.

To which I responded, “Well, great; now Netscape won’t load this page unless I condemn Israel.”

BTW the UN organization in question is the ITU.

I don’t necessarily see a problem with it.

The area of conflict that’s most likely to raise patriotic hackles is probably the question of the TLDs, but from a technical perspective, the biggest problem is IP addresses. You can limp along without a domain name, but it’s a helluva lot harder to use the Internets without an IP.

ICANN/IANA already delegates internal address space control to the RIRs, and I don’t see why the ITU can’t take over that function. Hell, let em run the TLDs, too, provided they grandfather in the current configuration.

When everybody finally takes the leap to IPv6, it’d be dead simple to divy up the address blocks according to population, assign permanent, country-specific TLDs, and let the regional agencies take over. But that probably makes too much sense.

I always sort of assumed that a combination of US companies and the government ran the Internet infrastructure that was in the US, the Dutch ran the part in the Netherlands, the Russians ran the Russian part and so on. Kind of like how the phone lines work.

I lurk a lot :slight_smile:

Damnit, I just noticed how bad I messed up the coding. Can someone please report it for a coding fix? Thanks in advance.

Ugh, I can see the limit on self-editing posts, but not being able to report one?

Off to the Pit once again. (Just to ask why) :slight_smile:

That article is pretty vague. In what way(s) does the US control the internet in other countries? Or even this one, for that matter. Given all the lawsuits required to shut down all the P2P sites, it doesn’t seem like they have much control over privately owned servers here, either. Is this “control” just regarding the laws governing the use of the internet world-wide, or could they actually physically block access to countries they didn’t like?

Mm, I don’t think so. Those are ISO standard two-letter country codes. The .tv TLD has always been reserved for Tuvalu; what happened a few years ago is they decided to make some money with their convenient abbreviation instead of only using it for sites inside their own country. Same with .ws, .cx, .nu, .cc, .fm, and so on: tiny countries that don’t have a lot of domestic tech businesses decided to sell their domain names to foreigners.

Web != internet. The WWW was invented by Tim Berners-Lee, an Englishman.

I suspect the P2P sites are part of it, but probably a very small influence in what this issue is about. P2P is very sensitive here on the SDMB, but there are servers that operate outside the US that are set up so they can’t be traced directly to any central organization. And any “authority” that can be identified as being the proprietor (sp?) of a site is usually outside US jurisditction.

Let me state the base question in my OP has little, if anything, to do with P2P. That’s not the issue. But I’m starting to think that a “World Governance” of anything dealing with network communication is in part a move to give authority to a centralized body. That, of course, would give control to a single body to determine what is and isn’t allowed.

Would anyone here trust the current US Congress to have control over how the internet is administrated and what is allowed? Didn’t think so. But when you bring in the equation of giving control to a body of representatives that have a majority of members that don’t like the US to begin with, I trust you can see the reluctance of trusting them to watch out for our best interests in a technology we alone developed.

If this were 1945 I wouldn’t have a problem with France having a say in something so fundamental to Americans as the current state of the internet. Today? I’m thinking maybe they aren’t looking out for any benefit to us. Unfair to generalize? Maybe. If you’re French.

Based on recent relations (read: post-195x) I am leery of the EU these days, with such a weight given to France’s voice in what happens. I know France and the US will never be enemies in a real sense of the word, but there is more than a little animosity happening. (And it’s not because of Bush, let’s lay that to rest. Cheese-eating surrender monkey has been around before 2001)

I just don’t trust handing over what is basically the biggest technological breakthrough since the incandescent light bulb to a group that has a majority of members that don’t like (even hate) the sole country that invented the technology.

I realize this sounds like I’m saying “America first, screw everyone else”. But that really isn’t the intent. I am, however, standing up to shout that this is our technology, and I’ll be damned if I sit by and watch an organisation that routinely tells us how evil we are try to take it over.

If the UN is so adept and competent to run the 'Net better than us, let them set up shop with a different base model. If they know how to run things better than a US firm(s), more power to them.

I am led to wonder why a campfire coalition would think they have a legit right to a system they had nothing to do with implementing. (OK, there were countries that offered input to the overall structure, but the US is still the one country able to handle the bulk of web transmissions.)

We (the US) invented networking. We expanded it to other countries. We set the standard. The fact that some countries want to just come in and say “It’s ours now, bugger off!” doesn’t sit so well with me.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) administrates top-level domains (.com, .edu, .uk, .no…) and IP adresses. They also administer the root DNS (domain name system) servers. Some of these servers are in US, some are outside.

Briefly, the DNS works like this:

Suppose an application needs to find the IP address of www.wikipedia.org. It puts this question to a local DNS recursor.[ul][li]Before starting, the recursor has to know where to find the root servers; administrators of recursive DNS servers manually specify (and periodically update) a file called the root hints which specify recently known IP addresses of these servers, from which the DNS server can obtain a current complete list. [/li][li]The process starts by the recursor asking one of these root servers - for example, the server with the IP address “” - the question “what is the IP address for www.wikipedia.org?” [/li][li]The root server replies with a delegation, meaning roughly: “I don’t know the IP address of www.wikipedia.org, but I do know that the DNS server at has information on the org domain.” [/li][li]The local DNS recursor then asks that DNS server (i.e. the same question it had previously put to the root servers, i.e. “what is the IP address for www.wikipedia.org?”. It gets a similar reply - essentially, “I don’t know the address of www.wikipedia.org, but I do know that the DNS server at has information on the wikipedia.org domain.” [/li][li]Finally the request goes to this third DNS server (, which replies with the required IP address.[/ul][/li][/quote]
In theory, I suppose ICANN could “shut down” internet in Iran by making the root name servers refuse to answer any questions from IP adresses known to be in Iran, and by answering all “What is the IP adress for www.whatever.ir” questions with “I don’t know”. In reality, doing that would – to put it mildly – be extremely harmful to ICANN’s international legitimacy. People in Iran might still be paranoid about something like that happening, of course.
By the way, does anyone know whether ICANN has direct control over the root servers? If ICANN tried to do this, could the people running the root server in Tokyo say “Screw you!” and continue to recognise .ir adresses?

Come to think about it, I have another related question: I remember reading about the first website with a .af (Afghanistan) adress a few years ago. I assume that means that the Taliban government did not get to administer the .af adresses. Does anyone know if that’s correct? And if it is, was it UN or ICANN or someone else who decided that? I suppose there might possibly be some justified paranoia about how ICANN would handle country-code domains for governments which US doesn’t recognise as legitimate.

Another where I’m guessing there might be problem is when we switch to IP version 6. In our current version of the internet protocol, there is only room for 4.2 billion different IP adresses. In the new version, the number of possible adresses is, um, huge. (340 undecillion. When numbers become so big that I’ve never heard of them, they are big…) Does anyone know if there’s any controversy around how these adresses are allocated? I can easily imagine a US based ICANN handing out adresses in a way that some countries would regard as blatantly unfair. A UN based ITU is also perfectly capable of being unfair, of course. Not to mention what “fair” is in this context.

Another ICANN controversy is tax. (That’s right, Rune, you don’t have to wait for a fat Bruxellioux bureaucrat to tax the Internet, a slim Californian technocrat has done it already :slight_smile: ) :

Today’s internet is based on international cooperation. It makes sense to have the adresses administrated by someone who’s answerable to the international community, not just to a single nation.

The EU and UN are just pissed that .COM domains are more popular than .GOV and .ORG domains.

I recon if the EU or UN had invented the Internet, .GOV and .ORG would have been 90% of the net, and you would have had to go through a maze of burecratic red tape and stiffling taxes for the privilige of a private .COM domain - that could still be expropirated at the whim of some top burecrat somewhere.

Mr2001, you’re on track of explaing this issue. But you haven’t shown why the US should give up whatever power we have over administration of the web we have as we know it.

An Englishman invented the internet? Was he an English citizen or American with ties to England? This is an honest question outside my OP. I’m curious now.

Further, maybe I need a smack-down in the definitions of the “web” and the “internet”. Am I confusing the two? They seem ubiquitous terms of the same function.

Maybe I’m just approaching this in the wrong light?