There is a potentially major split brewing over control of the Internet, and it has been coming for quite some time. Declan McCullagh has written a great article explaining the problem and what it could mean, so I suggest reading that for some background before you continue with this post. In a nutshell though, the US currently has complete control over the Internet’s root servers and a growing number of countries don’t like it – they think control should be given to an international body like the United Nations. I agree.
Whatever role the United States played in the creation of the Internet doesn’t really matter anymore. The fact that the US Department of Defense created ARPANET which became the Internet we know and love today is irrelevant. What matters most of all is that the Internet has become a truly global network, and it needs to remain that way if we want to continue reaping its benefits.
All we need to do is think about all of the ways in which we use the Internet, and how they would be changed or affected if a split occurred. Things like sending email, or instant messages. Sharing pictures with friends and family around the world. Buying and selling things locally and abroad. Sharing information with others and learning about far away places without the local spin. All of these things would be affected if a major split occurs. All of these things would be affected if the Bush government continues to express arrogance and jealously guard its control of the Internet’s root servers, and the countries that disagree and want more control decide to create their own, incompatible root servers. It could be disastrous.
Even though I support the UN taking over control, I know it isn’t perfect. Scandals like the oil for food program cast a dark light across the organization. At the same time though, I truly believe problems like the oil for food pogram in Iraq would have happened anyway, with or without the UN. And I would point to the many successes of the organization as proof that a UN-run Internet would be better in the long run than a US-run Internet. At they very least, there would be almost no chance of a split occurring.
Many people will be quick to point out that the US has done nothing wrong thus far, and has done a fairly good job of running the Internet – and that’s true. However, the US is very quickly becoming a smaller and smaller part of the Internet as countries around the world bring their vast populations online. They deserve a voice and a hand in how the Internet is governed.
We need to ensure that the Internet continues to function for all citizens of the world, and that is why the USA needs to cede control of the Internet to an international organization.