EU/UK drops Net governance bombshell

It's 7.30pm, the last session of the day, two days to go, and everyone at the WSIS meeting in Geneva is hoping that the heavily disputed committee text will start gelling together. Despite a good report on some parts (paras 49-51), others have failed to come to agreement.

And then – boom! – the UK/EU arrived with a brand-new series of paragraphs which it said it had pieced together in the last few hours in a special meeting of EU delegates, some of who flew in especially.

Introducing these statements, the EU/UK representative David Hendon urged everyone in the room to “take it away tonight and react tomorrow”.

He assured everyone that the “intention was to find language that could provide a statement that people from extreme positions can agree on”- and then outlined five new paragraphs (62-66), which to call explosive would be to dismiss a punch as an “forceful and manual act designed to halt further confrontation”.

The intention is good: to combine both the US angle where existing organisations are retained, with the Iranian/Brazilian point that the US government cannot be left in overall charge of the Internet. This very splicing was suggested a day earlier by Saudi Arabia, but as one seasoned UN delegate said to me about the EU/UK proposals, “there is enough here for two weeks of negotiation”.

As suggested new paragraph 64 was read out, I glanced at the ICANN head Paul Twomey to gauge his reaction but he wisely had his head down looking at his laptop. It's safe to say that he will not be delighted.

Paragraph 64 is entitled: “Essential tasks.” It talks of a new cooperation model that will cover development of public policies and provide international government involvement. And those tasks are:

a. A global IP allocation system
b. “Procedures for changing the root zone file, specifically for the insertion of new top level domains… and changes of ccTLD managers”
c. Contingency plans for the “continuity of crucial DNS functions”
d. A new arbitration and dispute resolution process – based on international law
e. “Rules applicable to DNS system”.

Basically, these five “essential tasks” are ICANN. What ICANN does, what set up to do an what it very much hopes it will continue to do.

They are also straight from Iran's copybook.

And so absolutely no one was surprised when the US piled in just before the end of the session. They stuck with Mr Hendon's suggestion that they not criticise the report  – but not referring to it. But it doesn't take a genuis to realise what the following comments were referring to:

“We said in our four principles released in July that the United States was committed to taking no action that would have the potential to adversely impact the effective and efficient operation of the DNS and will therefore maintain its historic role [stressed] in authorising changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file. That is a fundamental principle for us and we can't in any way allow any changes that contradict that.”

The US spokesman then went on about how the US takes its “responsibility” for running the DNS “with great seriousness” and that it will “not do anything that might impact that responsibility.”

In essense, paragraph 64 off the EU/UK proposal over our dead body.

Should be fun tomorrow.