Government leaders attending a contentious Internet summit in Tunis, Tunisia, last week decided one thing: The way the Internet is governed will change eventually. What attendees of the World Summit on the Information Society didn’t agree on, however -- and what will remain the focus of much debate moving forward -- is how, and when, the current governance structure should change.
For now, the United States remains in control. From both an economic and security perspective, the U.S. government is keen to keep a tight rein on how the Internet is managed.
But many other governments, in particular the European Union, are seeking a greater say in what has become, like radio frequencies and geostationary satellites, critical infrastructure.
Both the U.S. and the EU claimed victory at the summit. And, in fact, both did win something.
The U.S. has won time: The Internet’s core components, including its addressing systems, will remain under U.S. government control while a new Internet governance forum is debated.
The EU has won global approval to establish the forum: Although the parties agreed that the forum will have no oversight function, it could give birth to a new body that gives governments much greater say in Internet issues.
The new forum is scheduled to meet for the first time in 2006. Even though no one expects much to come out of the early discussions, just about everyone agrees the Tunis talks have created a powerful momentum for change.