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Internet Stability, Security Must Be Maintained, U.S. Says

Date: August 16, 2005
Source: Computer Crime Research Center


Ensuring the stability and security of the Internet must be a primary concern as the international community works to devise a framework for its governance and operating mechanisms in the future, the United States said August 15.

The comments from the U.S. State Department came in response to a July report from the independent Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG). That panel set to work in late 2003 after the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

The group, comprising 40 members from government, the private sector and civil society, met four times between November 2004 and June 2005. Members participated in their personal capacity, under the chairmanship of Nitin Desai, special adviser to the U.N. secretary-general for WSIS. (See related article.)

Whether an international body should begin regulating the Internet in some way is a key point of debate as the world community prepares for the second phase of WSIS coming up in November in Tunis, Tunisia.

In the August 15 position paper, the United States expressed willingness to continue discussions on technical operational standards and transparency of governing structures. The statement also underscored that “existing structures have worked effectively to make the Internet the highly robust and geographically diverse medium that it is today. The security and stability of the Internet must be maintained.”

The WGIG also proposed further internationalization of Internet governance arrangements, based on a 2003 WSIS Declaration of Principles that advocates multilateralism and the involvement of all "stakeholders" and international organizations.

The U.S. statement said internationalization of the Internet is already well under way, countering the argument that cyberspace and its governance are too centralized in the United States.

Decentralization would engender the greatest innovation, according to the U.S. statement. “It is at the edges where individuals, groups and corporations alike have the opportunity to add value to the network through pioneering applications and services.”

The U.S. statement also:

Reaffirmed the U.S. belief in the fundamental right to freedom of expression;

Called for international collaboration on cybersecurity;

Endorsed the continued technical coordination and management of the domain name system by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers;

Insisted the WSIS recognize and support the existing international intellectual property system to provide incentive for creativity and innovation; and

Urged governments to support consumer protection laws.

Information on the November WSIS meeting in Tunis, Tunisia, is available on the State Department Web site.

The text of the U.S. statement follows:

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs

Comments of the United States of America on Internet Governance

Released by the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
August 15, 2005

Introduction

The United States of America welcomes this opportunity to provide comments on the report of the United Nations Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG). We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Chairman, Secretariat and WGIG members for their efforts to tackle such a complex and challenging topic. Given the importance of the Internet to current economic, social, and political developments, it is critical that all stakeholders in the WSIS process work together collaboratively and constructively to find a consensus at the Tunis Phase of the Summit. The United States reiterates its commitment to the freedom of expression, to the need to preserve the security and stability of the Internet, and to infrastructure development. With these fundamental principles in mind, we offer a series of general comments on the report as well as specific comments on individual public policy issues referenced in the document.

General Comments

As stated above, the United States appreciates the hard work and dedication of the WGIG in its efforts to produce the report. We recognize the WGIG's effort to help frame the global dialogue on Internet governance by providing an understandable working definition, identifying some of the public policy issues, and the roles of the various stakeholders. With respect to the roles of the stakeholders identified in the report, the United States believes that, while governments naturally have a key role in the development and implementation of public policy, consultation and cooperation with the private sector and civil society are critical to ensuring effective, efficient and representative outcomes.

The United States remains open to discussing with all stakeholders ways to improve the technical efficiency as well as the transparency and openness of existing governance structures. However, it is important that the global community recognize that the existing structures have worked effectively to make the Internet the highly robust and geographically diverse medium that it is today. The security and stability of the Internet must be maintained.

The United States continues to support ubiquitous access to the Internet and the development of Internet infrastructure around the globe. Continued internationalization of the Internet is evidenced by the recent creation of Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) for Latin America and Africa and the enhanced efforts of the Internet community to work towards an equitable distribution of IP addresses. For example, as of June 2005, cumulative IPv4 address allocations had the following geographical breakdown - 33% to the Asia Pacific Region, 32% to North America, 31% to Europe, 3% to South America and 1% to Africa. For that same period cumulative IPv6 allocations were - 56% to Europe, 23% to the Asia Pacific Region, 17% to North America, 3% to Latin American and 1% to Africa. In addition, the establishment of 103 root servers, including mirror roots, a vast majority of which are located outside of the United States, demonstrates that the Internet and its core resources are not centralized in one country.

The decentralization of the Internet is further evidenced by the level of innovation that occurs at the edges of the network. It is at the edges where individuals, groups and corporations alike have the opportunity to add value to the network through pioneering applications and services. Local empowerment challenges traditional trade paradigms and reinforces the importance of all stakeholders in safeguarding the security, stability and robustness of this interconnected network of networks. What happens at one point in the network has the potential to impact other points in the network, highlighting the need for appropriate public policy at the local and national levels, supplemented by cooperation at the international level. It is at the edge where the true opportunity, promise and full participatory nature of the Internet is realized.

Finally, the United States would like to highlight a fundamental area of public policy which is absent from the WGIG report - the role of an enabling environment in Internet development and diffusion. To maximize the economic and social benefits of the Internet, governments must focus on creating, within their own nations, the appropriate legal, regulatory, and policy environment that encourages privatization, competition, and liberalization. In particular, the role of the private sector and civil society as the driver of innovation and private investment in the development of the Internet is critical. Value is added at the edges of the network, in both developed and developing countries, when the domestic policy environment encourages investment and innovation.

Comments on specific Internet-related public policy issues

Freedom of Expression: The United States reconfirms the importance of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and to the free flow of information as contained in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as reaffirmed in the Geneva Declaration of Principles adopted at the first phase of WSIS. A free, independent print, broadcast and online media is one of the key institutions of democratic life. The United States believes that no nation can develop politically or economically without the ability of its citizens to openly and freely express their opinions in an environment in which everyone can seek, receive and impart information. The United States fully supports the principle that all measures taken in relation to the Internet, in particular those measures taken on grounds of security or to fight crime, not lead to infringements on the freedom of expression.

Internet Stability, Security and Cybercrime: Building confidence and security in the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems and networks is a priority of the United States. These systems and networks are subject to threats and vulnerabilities from multiple sources and different geographic locations; security requires a concerted preventive effort by all stakeholders, appropriate to their roles. National action and international collaboration across a range of legal, enforcement, administrative and technical areas are required to build a global culture of cybersecurity. In developing a national cybersecurity strategy, governments should draw upon existing structures and processes such as: the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, UNGA Resolutions "Combating the criminal misuse of information technologies" (55/63...
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