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The WSIS outcome

Posted on Mon, Nov 21, 2005 at 11:03 AM by Andrew Chadwick

The second round of the WSIS has been completed and a decision made on Internet governance. The details are yet to fully emerge, but the basic result is a compromise: minor reform of the existing arrangements. ICANN will retain its control over the DNS, and the United States will formally retain its control over ICANN. A new Internet Governance Forum will be created to accommodate civil society groups, but its powers appear to be limited, and it is also uncertain how much of a role governments will play in its operation.

At the moment, the UN/intergovernmental control proposal - originally tabled by a group of countries including China, Brazil, Iran and Pakistan, and supported by the EU back in late summer - has been pushed aside. Strangely, the EU delegates remained very quiet on this. A report by Kieren McCarthy in the Guardian suggests that a letter from Condoleezza Rice in the build-up to the WSIS asked the EU to reconsider.

Most commentators seem to be suggesting that this is the beginning rather than the end of the Internet governance battle. There is an interesting perspective by Milton Mueller at ICANNwatch. He suggests that the decision strengthens the role of governments in ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee and the new Forum will also be open to governmental influence. In other words, those states pushing for greater control will have an opportunity to continue - inside ICANN's structures. All with US oversight of course.

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