US Official: Vigilance Needed To Prevent Re-Opening Of Internet Governance Debate 19/01/2006 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate. Prague – A senior Bush administration official said on 17 January that “constant vigilance” is required this year to prevent new efforts to change the governance of the Internet. David Gross, US coordinator for international communications and information policy at the US State Department, made the comment at an event sponsored by the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank. He said there are many meetings this year at which the issue could come up again. Gross led the US efforts last year in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process against attempts by other nations, especially the European Union, to wrest some control of the Internet away from the United States. Inherent in some proposals for change was to place more control with inter-governmental organisations like the United Nations. Gross said the United States fears that in such organisations, some countries that oppose free speech on the Internet “could hold the Internet hostage” and prevent certain content from appearing. He said the United States was pleased with the outcome of the two-part WSIS, which ended in November, as there was agreement not to make any changes to the status quo. At the WSIS, agreement was reached to establish a non-negotiating Internet governance forum, and to improve technical cooperation on Internet governance. Already there is disagreement between the US and the EU on the technical cooperation aspect, and bilateral talks are taking place. The EU, which appears to view it as a new body, will hold a high-level meeting on the issue on 20 February, according to a government source. Who, How, Where For the Internet Governance Forum? Many questions remain regarding the Internet governance forum, beginning with who will be in charge, where it will be housed and how it will be funded. The secretary-general is not expected to run it or organise it. The Greek government has agreed to host the first meeting, which is likely to be held closer to the UN International Telecommunication Union plenipotentiary meeting next November. Gross said the United States will push for the ITU not to put Internet governance on its agenda for the next four years. According to one source, the Swiss government is pushing to locate the forum’s secretariat in Geneva. Markus Kummer, a Swiss official who oversaw the workings of the Internet governance working group that concluded its work last summer, is a good possibility. So is Nitin Desai, who chaired the working group and is expected to step down as special adviser to the secretary-general for the WSIS. Desai will hold consultations on the convening of the forum on 16-17 February in Geneva. Alternatively, Sarbuland Khan, head of the UN Information and Communication Technology Task Force based in New York, could be a candidate as his group has completed its project. Another wild card could be Louise Frechette, vice secretary general who is expected to step down soon, according to one source. In addition, other countries have expressed interest as well, including Hungary, and the city of Vienna, the source said. Asked whether there is “anything new” about the forum, Gross said, “time will tell.” He said there was a perceived need for a forum for discussion about Internet policy issues, such as spam. He also said it is not limited in what can be discussed in the forum, so that intellectual property issues could be brought up. But, he said, “I would be surprised if it morphed into a serious discussion of these [IP] issues.” Gross also said he thought those who are concerned about intellectual property issues did not raise them at the November WSIS in Tunis because they were so involved in the Internet governance debate. "US Official: Vigilance Needed To Prevent Re-Opening Of Internet Governance Debate" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.