The Standards Blog

U.S. Dept. of Commerce Says "Our Way or (No) Information Superhighway"

WSIS/Internet Governance

According to eWeek, Assistant Secretary of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Michael Gallagher stated during an address: "Given the Internet's importance to the world's economy, it is essential that the underlying DNS of the Internet remain stable and secure." In other words, we're going it alone again. Sound familiar?

I had barely finished the last entry when a surprising news story came to my attention at eWeek.com, entitled Feds Won't Let Go of Internet DNS. The gist of the article is that the U.S. Dept. of Commerce has said "hands off" to the WSIS Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), which has been discussing who should control key elements of the Internet, such as the domain name system (DNS).

According to eWeek, Assistant Secretary of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Michael Gallagher stated during an address: "Given the Internet's importance to the world's economy, it is essential that the underlying DNS of the Internet remain stable and secure." In other words, we're going it alone again. Sound familiar?

True, the U.S. did develop the Internet. And equally true, it did pay for its development and for its early maintenance. But today the Internet is both a global resource and an essential service, and hardly an American property.

It's worth observing that the standards that make the Internet (and the Web) possible were developed by voluntary consensus organizations, none of which is national, and none of which seeks to assume that it "owns" any essential piece of the Internet or the Web. Rather, each regards itself as a custodian of a public resource, independent of any national interest.

The WSIS/WGIG process has now been in operation for more than a year, and the U.S. Government is hardly unaware of that process. For the U.N. and the many nations involved in that process to learn through press reports, based upon a passing reference by a trade official, that the results of the WSIS/WGIG efforts will be ignored by the U.S. is hardly diplomatic. Why the message was not delivered in a less public and confrontational manner is hard to imagine.

This is not a good precedent, and the international reaction to it will be certain to be vigorous -- not only because of the message, but due to the method in which is was delivered as well.

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Technology has been an important part of our lives. It is very vital in our daily living furthermore it helps economic development. Internet as a medium of communication could also be a medium on saving the economy. Nevertheless, The Department of Commerce has been one of the most conflicted appointments thus far, as the previous two candidates have dropped out.  The third nominee, who has picked by Obama, is the former governor of Washington State, Gary Locke.   The former governor, though not devoid of controversy, was by and large a popular governor, and pending any tax hassles may be a lock for Commerce Secretary.  The post has been troubled, but since it is related to the economy, it is vital that a pick be found to head the Department of Commerce soon.