"While we can justly claim that the U.S. 'invented' the Internet," Syracuse University professor Milton Mueller said, "with over a billion users now, US citizens are a small minority of the networked world. If the Internet's central coordination functions are seen as a U.S. strategic asset rather than as a neutral, globally-shared infrastructure, the risks of deliberate disruption and politicization of the Internet can only increase."
The comments, part of a statement developed by the Syracuse University-based Internet Governance Project (IGP), came during a symposium sponsored by the IGP and three other university programs to assess the final report of the U.N. Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG). The event, "Regime Change on the Internet? Internet Governance after WGIG," was the first public forum in the United States to review the U.N. Working Group's report. The report will become the basis of international negotiations at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva this September. WSIS negotiations will be concluded at a summit in Tunisia in November 2005. The U.S. State Department, which has issued a call for public comment on the report, was represented at the symposium by Richard Beaird, Senior Deputy U.S. Coordinator of its Communication and Information Policy section.
Much of the discussion centered on a June 30, 2005 U.S. Commerce Department statement claiming that the U.S. government will "continue to maintain" its unilateral authority over the Internet's domain name and addressing system. That statement disappointed many in the global Internet community, who believed that the World Summit on the Information Society provided an opportunity to negotiate more open, multilateral governance arrangements.
Markus Kummer, a Swiss diplomat who coordinated the WGIG, noted in his speech that the U.N. Working Group identified unilateral U.S. control of the DNS root as one of the most important public policy issues facing the Internet. The WGIG was composed by an internationally diverse group of 40 governmental representatives, business people, and public interest groups. Its report also called for the creation of a new "global forum" devoted to Internet issues where government, business, and civil society would have equal status.
Speakers at the event included:
-- Richard Beaird, Senior Deputy U.S. Coordinator, U.S. State Department Communication and Information Policy section
-- Markus Kummer, Switzerland, Executive Coordinator, U.N. Working Group on Internet Governance
-- Lesley Cowley, Chief Executive Officer, Nominet UK
-- Milton Mueller, Professor, Syracuse University and Internet Governance Project
-- Christopher Boam, Counsel for Internet and Global ICT in MCI's Legal Department, International Affairs Division
-- Willie Currie, Association for Progressive Communications
-- Hans Klein, Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology and Internet Governance Project
The event occurred at Syracuse University's Paul Greenberg House, in Washington, DC. Event co-sponsors included: The Internet Governance Project; The Quello Center for Telecommunication Management and Law, Michigan State University; Culture, Communication and Technology Program, Georgetown University; and Internet and Public Policy Project, Georgia Institute of Technology. To access the symposium's slide presentations and discussions, go to: http://tinyurl.com/cq5vo
The Internet Governance Project is an interdisciplinary consortium of academics with scholarly and practical expertise in international governance, Internet policy, and information and communication technology. The project's research and policy analyses of Internet governance are available on its website, at http://www.internetgovernance.org. The Project includes representatives from Syracuse University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Political Science.
The School of Information Studies at SU is a nationally ranked center for innovative programs in information policy, information behavior, information management, information systems, information technology, and information services. The School offers an undergraduate degree, certificates of advanced studies, three professional master's programs, and a Ph.D. The School of Information Studies was established in 1896 as the School of Library Science and is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). For more information, visit the School's web site at www.ist.syr.edu.