A topic I've been following for about a year now is the struggle over "Internet governance," which has translated most directly during that time period into the following question: "will the US Department of Commerce give up control of the root directories of the Internet or won't it?" The debate over that question sadly monopolized the World Summit on the Internet Society (WSIS) for most of the life of that initiative (to date), and promises to continue to do so.
That's a shame, because the WSIS initiative was founded to bring the benefits of information technology and Internet access to all of the peoples of the world. Appropriately, it's administered by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) under the auspices of the United Nations, and if you're interested you can follow what's happened (and hasn't happened) over the past year by scrolling through the news stories, comments and blog entries availalbe in this folder, or by scanning this issue of the Consortium Standards Bulletin.
As you'll see from the materials in either location, ICANN's stewardship of the root directories is up for renewal (or termination) at the end of September of this year. Comments were earlier submitted on what to do when September has run its course, and a public meeting was held two days ago on the question of whether or not to renew the ICANN Memorandum of Understanding, or to put the job out to bid.
According to The Register's Kieren McCarthy, that meeting "should go down in Internet history," as the moment in time when the U.S. government "conceded that it can no longer expect to maintain its position as the ultimate authority over the internet." But the article then goes on to say:
However, assistant commerce secretary John Kneuer, the US official in charge of such matters, also made clear that the US was still determined to keep control of the net's root zone file - at least in the medium-term.
"The historic role that we announced that we were going to preserve is fairly clearly articulated: the technical verification and authorisation of changes to the authoritative root," Kneuer explained....
Given the fact that the root directories are all that the U.S. government controls now, it’s a bit difficult to determine what the historic turn about may be. In fact, several years ago the U.S. indicated that it would give up control of the root directories; then last year it said that it would not, and now (at most) it appears to have said that it may give them up some day. All of which sounds less historic to me than within historical boundaries of bafflegaffe.
For more on the current situation, read the full article here. As you can see from this list of detailed stories, Kieren has been following this story closely for some time, so perhaps the import of what he heard simply isn’t as obvious from the bare facts as they appear in the story. If so, we shouldn’t have long to wait to find out – September 30 is just over two months away.
For further blog entries on WSIS/Internet Governance, click here