Thursday, October 20, 2005

The international bureaucrats and influence-seekers who want to hand the Internet over to the United Nations just got a major boost from the European Union.

In an apparent about-face from its previous positions, the EU announced last month that it supports transferring the assigning of Internet domain names — currently handled by a California nonprofit — to an international body. Now the EU is trying to make people think that if the United States doesn’t budge, the Internet will fragment into regional or national networks and the whole thing will come crashing down.

“We have to have a platform where leaders of the world can express their thoughts about the Internet,” Viviane Reding, the EU’s information-technology commissioner, said last week. “If they have the impression that the Internet is dominated by one nation and it does not belong to all the nations then the result could be that the Internet falls apart.”

But is it even possible for the Internet to “fall apart”? Politically speaking, it is impossible. “I haven’t heard any governments say they are interested in creating an alternative Internet,” Amb. David A. Gross, the State Department’s coordinator for international communications and information policy, told The Washington Times in an interview on Monday. It’s not hard to see why: No country would want to inflict upon itself that type of colossal economic wound.

But it’s quite easy to see why the EU would resort to this argument; it’s a scare tactic to convince other governments to abandon the current U.S.-based managers of the Internet.

In any event, this debate is not about “expressing thoughts,” as Miss Reding says; it’s about control. Repressive governments want to seize control of the Internet for purposes of censorship; the eurosocialists want to tax and regulate it.

In all but one of the four proposals to create a U.N. body charged with devising “Internet governance” arrangements, control of key functions would be wrested away from the California-based Internet Corporation for Names and Numbers. But not a single Silicon Valley executive sat on the U.N. panel. The people who built the Internet weren’t asked their opinion. It’s telling that China and Iran are some of the most enthusiastic backers of all this; they stand to gain greatly from U.N. control over the Internet.

The beauty of the Internet is that no single entity — much less a government, much less the United Nations — controls it. It is the sum of actions taken by millions of individual users and companies around the world. Take away its decentralization and the Internet loses its power to innovate. Of course, that might be just what these EU and U.N. power-grabbers want.

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