Is there a need for a ‘demonopolized’ Internet?

Russia disproves of the situation when a single U.S.-based organization has control over the Internet and will soon voice it suggestions on how to ‘demonopolize’ it.

Telecoms Minister Igor Shchegolev has lashed out at the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a non-profit organization with headquarters in California. The organization performs a number of Internet-related tasks – the two most apparent being the creation of new top-level domain names like .ru or .com and management of the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses.

According to Shchegolev the situation where the Internet is “de facto controlled by a single organization from a single country” is wrong, reports Vedomosti daily. Russia will present its suggestions on changing the situation during the ICANN conference in Mexico in March. Shchegolev said it will help make the Russian segment of the Internet safer and more independent.

ICANN

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers was created in 1998 to take over functions from a governmental body called the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. It has a standing contract with the American Department of Commerce, which expires in 2009. ICANN’s close ties with Washington made it subject to criticism on several occasions. The organization’s managing board consists of 20 people, including representatives from Norway, India, Chile, Latvia, France and Gambia. Various critics suggest handing over some or all of ICANN functions to regional registries, a UN body or even back to the U.S. government.

The minister declined to comment what those suggestions are, but another ministerial official said several countries including Brazil, India, China and some African countries support Russia’s position.

Every ICANN conference sees the discussion of the Internet control and management, but so far no radical change was taken, said Andrey Vorobyev from the Ru-Center, Russia’s largest domain name registrar. He added the organization was consistent in making its work more liberal. In 2006, it signed a new contract and ceased to be fully controlled by the US government, and it plans to be fully independent by 2011.

The last big initiative of the ICANN was the introduction of custom top-level domains. The organization wanted to make domains like .cars or .bank available for registrations at an annual fee of $US 185 thousand. The proposition was shelved after numerous objections.