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U.S. fights with Russia, China over Internet control

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The United States is apparently embroiled in another behind-the-scenes cold war with Russia and China. This time the issue is who controls the Internet—the existing U.S.-backed International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) or the United Nations' International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which, to some degree, says it wants to be left out of the tiff.

"The United States believes that the existing multi-stakeholder institutions, incorporating industry and civil society, have functioned effectively and will continue to ensure the health and growth of the Internet and all of its benefits," U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer said, according to a story in The Register.

Russia, China and some other members of the ITU want to change the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) and bring the Internet under the ITU's control. To do that, the ITRs would need to be changed because they "do not address technical standards, infrastructure or content," the Register story continued, adding that the "expansion of the ITRs do include Internet regulation."

The skirmish between the countries will be part of a conference the ITU is holding to look at the ITRs, regulations developed in 1988 that the Register called "a treaty on telecoms." The World Conference will be held Dec. 3-14 in Dubai.

"The ITU has said that the conference will review the rules and even think about changing them and has invited countries to make proposals," the story said.

That led the State Department to promise that it would "carefully monitor" anything other governments are suggesting.

"The U.S. is concerned that proposals by some other governments could lead to greater regulatory burdens being place on the international telecom sector or perhaps even extended to the Internet sector—a result the U.S. would oppose," according to a State Department statement.

Russia, which has suggested some Internet address assignments should be handled by the ITU, and not ICANN, did not make its proposals for the conference private but saw them exposed, nonetheless, by ITU watchdog wcitleaks.org, the newspaper said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has since suggested that the ITRs should establish "international control over the Internet using monitoring and supervisory capabilities of the ITU," the newspaper said, noting that China would allegedly back any Russia attempts to wrest control from the United States.

The ITU, insisting that its role is to "promote international cooperation," has tried to squash talk about changing its role to that of a regulator, the story concluded.

For more:
- see this story
- and the State Dept.'s fact sheet

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