First thoughts about Geneva Internet meeting

Well, it's 3.15pm Geneva time and the afternoon session of Sub-Committee A at PrepCom3 of WSIS at the UN in Geneva will start in 15 minutes.

What does all that mean? That for the next few hours a group of around 100 people in a room will start making fundamental decisions about how the Internet will run forever more.

These sessions were getting behind. In fact there was only supposed to be one of these a day but a slow start last week has seen them running two a day and possibly three, with a third tonight.

It was pretty much doom and gloom right up until yesterday. Factions have built up and fallen down. The US and Canada – who always stick to give in the world politics stakes, mostly it must be said because of a pretty similar world view – have started edging apart.

Meanwhile, a group calling themselves the Likeminded group and containing an oddly anti-US Brazil contingent, as well some of the African countries and assorted others has started gathering pace.

I am told there was an OECD gang but that appears to have fallen apart. And the most stubborn so far are Iran and Cuba – quite possibly because the US is being pretty solid in its view that the UN shouldn't have control of the Internet, and there's nothing that annoys Iran and Cuba more than the Yanks laying down the law.

However, I had a quick interview with the US Ambassador, David Gross, as well as with the Sub-Committee A chairman and Pakistan ambassador Masood Khan, and both of them are quietly confident that a deal may be struck – no matter how unlikely it looks at the moment.

The Chinese – vital in any agreement – despite having put out a very strong statement earlier in the week which was a barely disguised attack on the US and ICANN, has not been as forthright as you might expect and so with both the US and China appearing to be willing to concede some points, if that agreement is made, the others could well be brought into line.

So what?

Well, while it's not vital that everyone agree on a system for Internet Governance, if one isn't reached, it is going to be the ten-ton gorilla in every important discussion regarding the Internet from this point on. And, as you can imagine, that's going to be pretty often.

So agreement is definitely preferable. Or at least an initial agreement on who should run the Internet, who should decide where it grows and how it grows and how what already exists works with the rest of it.

I will get the interviews with the Ambassadors down on an MP3 with some commentary from me hopefully tonight and doing a broad, clearly story for The Register than this quick blog, but that's how it stands at the moment in Geneva.